PHOTO CHALLENGE: Show us your urban farm lifestyle and let’s see how you do, teach, learn, love, and share urban farming. Urban farming may include backyard chickens and other livestock, gardening, permaculture, or other sustainable elements of a backyard farm or homestead.
DEADLINE: Midnight, November 1st, 2017 (PST)
WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT: One winner will be chosen by judicial voting, and announced by November 7th, by reposting chosen photo to Dare 2 Dream Farms’ Instagram page. A private message will be sent to the winner with instructions for claiming the prize.
Every summer and fall, our customer service team receives a higher volume of calls and emails from broken-hearted chicken keepers who have raised their sweet spring chicks from local feed stores to maturity only to find out that they have male chickens that they can’t keep. We know there are a lot of reasons chickens need to be re-homed, and it doesn’t translate to failure as a backyard chicken keeper. There are fussy neighbors to contend with, confusing and changing city regulations, unexpected moves to a home or city that doesn’t allow for chickens as pets, unknown allergies to pet chickens or eggs, aggressive roosters and hens, chickens that need specialized medical treatment, and more.
It’s a hard phone call to answer because we know that chicken keepers, especially youngsters, have formed wonderful bonds with their new pets. The time and care put into raising the chicks into a companion is forfeit, most often because of city regulations regarding roosters. Dare 2 Dream Farms does not rescue roosters or other chickens that weren’t originally purchased from this farm originally; in short, because the farm must maintain a bio-security system put in place to protect the chickens for sale and the homes they’re sold to.
It seems a hopeless task to find a home willing to take in a rooster or old laying hens. But we’ve got some great avenues for you to pursue to make sure you find the perfect forever-home for Henrietta, now aptly re-named Henry.
HAVE HOPE: Loving chickens can find forever homes in a lot of great places, where their egg production isn’t the primary purpose for being kept. Homes in rural areas may lose wonderful pet roosters that actively protect their free-range laying flock against predators, and may be in need of a replacement rooster who will be chivalrous to the hens, and good with the kids. Chickens are also beginning to provide therapy alongside other farm animals for anxiety and other conditions. Calm and well-behaved chickens are used by animal specialists who provide trained animals for filming. Hobby farms, or petting zoos may be searching for sweet chickens that are especially good with young children who visit them. They may even be accepted as a donation to a local orchard or organic farm who needs additional pest and weed control.
GET CREATIVE: Advertising chickens through listing services like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or Letgo can be successful, but spend the extra time to make the listing enticing. Give your chickens their own story, or personality, and post beautiful, fun, or loving photos of them. In the advertisement, remember to share why you think they are so special. For example: they greet you every morning, they’re particularly sweet with your kids, they love to be held, they’re excellent foragers, they’re a rare breed, or they’re still good egg layers. Next, consider giving them monetary value. Selling a chicken for $10 or $15 gives the impression that they have value as egg layers, breeding stock, or simply as wonderful pets, and potential forever homes will value that too. “Free to a good home” may convey that you’re desperate to get rid of them for an undisclosed reason. Plus, anyone looking to fill a soup pot won’t spring for a $10 chicken. Also, remember that backyard chicken breeds are bred for their feathering, egg production, and to maintain heritage breeding lines. They’re not useful for cockfighting, so you can rest assured they won’t be abused.
Give your chicken his own story.
Taking Notes? Cool photos like this earn big points with animal lovers looking for a new roo
TO THE RESCUE: If you’re not successful in finding a private forever home for your chickens before your deadline, non-profit organizations exist whose primary function is to rescue, care for, and re-home chickens and other farm animals. We’ve made a listing of animal rescues in California that may help you get started. To find other places near you, search local listings for “chicken rescue,” “rooster rescue,” or “farm animal sanctuary.” Be sure to call the organization to be sure they have openings for your animals, and schedule a time to drop them off so they can be properly cared for upon arriving.
PLEASE DON’T DUMP: Dropping off chickens on private or public property without permission is illegal. Cities like Arroyo Grande and Fair Oaks in California have fluctuating populations of city chickens, unwanted and dumped roosters and hens that roam the streets and roost in the trees near city halls. Somehow they seem to be fed and find a place to sleep at night, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t also catch the eye of resident raccoons or stray cats looking for lunch, and cause someone the headache of scraping bird poop off of park benches and sidewalks. Dumping animals is illegal, whether it occurs in underpopulated wooded areas, or in the middle of a downtown area; and chickens cannot be expected to survive on their own foraging skills alone after being provided for. While we’re being forthcoming about survival, it should also be noted that animal shelters are not the ideal place for leaving your chickens. Shelters usually don’t have much space for fowl, and chickens there have a low chance of rescue and a high chance of being euthanized.
FINDERS > KEEPERS: Lastly, if you find they hold a place in your heart, you might find a way to keep your chickens. Chickens that are no longer high production layers still provide excellent companionship, organic weed and pest control, and entertainment. Many homes feed dogs and cats who eat far more in food, and never lay an egg. Chickens have started to prove to the world that they have value as companions alongside traditional house pets. Roosters, although they don’t lay eggs, can also provide value to the health of your flock (more on that here). If your main concern is their noise, there are creative ways to help control the sound of roosters: no-crow collars and insulated soundproof boxes have been created to limit the sound of a rooster until late enough in the morning that it no longer disturbs the neighbors. Some chicken keepers in love with their roos have simply moved roosters into the garage, spare bathroom, or dog crate in the house at night to muffle the sound of the morning crowing. Neighborly love for your bawking chickens could also be bought with occasional gifts of a half dozen fresh backyard chicken eggs with a cute stamp. An invitation to meet the flock can’t hurt either, so they can see just how much personality their tiny feathered neighbors have. If you’re lucky, a new bond between your neighbors and your chickens may also mean that you have an offer for a chicken sitter during your next out of town adventure.
Here at Dare 2 Dream farms we get a lot of compost going all year long. between the many chicken droppings, to bedding of pine shavings, and tons of vegetable matter that is pulled from the garden, there are mountains of compost created each year, which we put back into our garden to recycle the health of the soil.
Our composting systems are “no turn” and do not get rotated on their own. Unlike composting bins, with aeration and a turning mechanism, out piles break down at a slower rate. The mix of Carbon based additives and Nitrogen based additives compliment each other and create a compost rich in nutrients, not too acidic and not too alkaline, for seeds to grow in the garden.
Compost is like the special medicine for a healthy soil. When adding compost, there are an abundance of nutrients, vitamins, and other living substances that work with the soil to create life. When compost mixed in to the soil, each layer of the plant roots has a chance to take up any nutrients that it will need for growth.
Activators, such as chicken manure, young weeds and grass clippings, are all still “living” and actually bring life to the compost. Since weeds and grass break down easily, they start a process of breaking down with the rest of the food waste and ingredients within the compost. Chicken manure, since it is digested and broken down with enzymes, can be a great way to kick start the break down process as well. Activators are a great additive to any compost to initiate the decomposition and prevent plant matter and food waste from just sitting in a pile and rotting.
A compost pile or bin is ready for use when it looks dark brown and shows consistency in its composition. The temperature can be too hot to touch. You can always use a thermometer to test your own compost and make sure it has reached a level between 130-150 degrees F. At this temperature, all unpleasant bacteria has had a chance to break down and be recycled into the rich compost to be used.
If planning on using compost to incorporate into your vegetable garden beds, it is not recommended to use any chemicals, grass clippings that may contain pesticides, or unnatural substances. Steer clear from things that you would not normally consume. Everything that is adding into your compost will be absorbed by future seedlings.
We’ve got a scary Heat Wave starting today in California. Other states around us are going to be affected too. This could last for 7-10 days, break and then start anew!
For those of you who have chickens but haven’t yet had to put a plan into place for protecting your ladies from extreme heat: NOW is the time. The key elements for helping your chickens beat the heat are water, shade, and ventilation. Here are some tips:
Evaporative Cooling: If you have good soil drainage and moving air, you can spray down the ground with water early in the day. As the heat of the day increases it will pull some of the heat with the evaporating water, keeping the chicken area a bit cooler. Using misters can also be helpful, though they are a bit more expensive to install and run especially if you’re in a cooler area that doesn’t normally require you to help your beat the heat except for short heat waves like this.
Freeze Treats: Frozen watermelon seems to be the favorite but other melons, berries, and veggies can work just as well. You could even mash or purée your mixed kitchen or garden scraps, put them in a metal bowl and freeze it for a chicken slushee!
Extra Waterers: Leave out more water, and even extra water containers as the chickens will be drinking more often and shouldn’t have to stand around a crowded watered waiting a turn.
Air Movement: Do you have a portable fan you’re not using while you’re out for the day? Run it out near the coop on an extension cord to keep the air circulating. This works especially well if it blows towards the chickens over something cold like a bucket of ice.
More Shade: If you have potted plants, patio furniture or other large objects in the yard, rearranging them near the coop short term will help to cast more shade. Alternatively, o draped over the run can help create a larger shaded space. Something like this:
From the moment that we began selling our eggs locally, the importance of displaying beautiful colors in each of our egg cartons was second only to the health of our hens. As a new farm, and as farmers who learned by trial and error, we were extraordinarily busy. We used daylight hours for working outside on the farm, and when it turned dark, we turned to indoor tasks such as customer service, marketing, research & development, web design, and egg washing. We frequently washed eggs into the hours that should no longer be considered night, but can’t yet be called morning. After hand washing and packaging our eggs, we frequently reconfigured egg cartons to evenly distribute the most beautiful eggs and maximize the beauty of every carton so that when our customers opened their cartons to cook, the eggs would unfailingly make them smile. We were one of the first farms in our area to place such an importance on the beauty of each dozen eggs we sold. We were lauded by our customers and the farm amassed a very loyal following.
When food makes us happy, we place a higher value on how it’s made and where it comes from. We’ll spend the extra time and money to find it and purchase it from a small farmer who valued it enough to grow it well. We will take the time to prepare it for a nice meal, and we will savor that meal, or share it with family and friends. Placing value on food such as this nourishes our bodies, our homes, our relationships, and our communities.
This is one reason why backyard chicken keepers are obsessed with the colors of the eggs all their hens lay. A colorful box of eggs can make a gorgeous host gift, teachers gift, trade, and more. From dark chocolate brown eggs to creamy tinted eggs and all the shades of blue and green in between, here are a list of the breeds that lay all the egg colors you’re looking for.
Araucanas – The South American tufted and rumpless Araucana lays gorgeous sky-blue eggs.
Ameraucanas – The bearded Ameraucana, bred forth from the Araucana in America, also lays a stunning blue egg, but the breed has been relieved of it’s deadly tufted gene, and the rumplessness that causes fertility issues.
Barnevelders – Though the shades vary tremendously based on the quality of the bird, the Dutch Barnevelders are known for laying a darker brown egg.
Cream Legbar – Instead of laying just one color of eggs, this British breed may lay either a light pastel blue or green egg.
Easter Eggers – These are Ameraucanas that are not show-quality, or true-bred; but they lay a larger size and higher number of eggs that have a magnificent range of colors from blue to green.
Isbar – This Sweedish chicken’s eggs vary from light mossy green to dark olive green.
Marans – Though the French Marans chickens are highly sought after for the rich dark chocolate brown of the Black Copper Marans eggs, this breed is quite difficult to obtain. Other Marans may lay beautiful dark brown eggs, though not quite as dark, depending on the quality of the breeding and the Marans variety.
Olive Eggers – A cross between any green or blue egg layer and a dark brown egg layer gives you a hybrid that lays a beautiful olive green egg.
Penedesenca – The flighty Spanish Penedesenca also layes a gorgeous dark brown egg, though is a much harder bird to keep for backyard chicken keepers.
Welsummers – Another Dutch chicken prized for large dark brown, and often speckled, eggs.
All of our vegetables picked fresh throughout the week are unprocessed, raw, and living whole plants. If you have ever been here to Dare 2 Dream Farms, you have probably seen the rows and sections of different crops growing.
When the plants are cleaned up and shining with life, they are still full of energy from the sun and dirt that supplies a plant with life force. You can see the difference when you watch spinach wilt down in a steam bath or when cooking a squash and watching the colors fade to a neutral, soft, edible medium.
When plants are still in their raw form, they are full of plant enzymes that were used to grow the food and maintain the structure of each leaf and plant cell. Plants plucked from the ground that contain water soluble nutrients, such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B, are better left uncooked.
What happens to water when heat is applied? It steams, evaporates, and eventually disappears. This is similarly what happens to plants that contain a lot of water. In their water molecules are many nutrients living and flowing through the plant. Once it’s picked from the ground, the plant is no longer connected to the source of water, but they are still circulating life within each leaf.
Some plant nutrients are only able to be absorbed by human anatomy when a plant is cooked. Squash, for instance, is a excellent, nutrient rich plant, that takes a long time to grow and gathers up a lot of beneficial vitamins and minerals during the time it takes to mature. Chickens can eat squash and pumpkins raw, but we would have a difficult time chewing through a squash, and it may taste pretty bitter!
Fat soluble compounds, like Vitamins A, D, E and K are better off cooked or boiled, to allow for us to get the most out of them. Carrots, Zucchini, and Broccoli or Romanesco are all better off steamed before consumption.
Leafy greens such as Chard, are hardy and difficult to enjoy sometimes when eaten raw. A vegetables like this contains a good amount of vitamin A, making it a great vegetable to steam up or add to a quiche. It is also a decent source of vitamin C, so great to enjoy raw in a salad as well.
When is comes to watery greens, such as lettuce, celery, and cucumbers, it is best to eat them in their raw state. Some say that eating these and other vegetables raw and fresh from the ground actually allows you to get much more energy from them. That energy being from the sun and ground that is still circulating through the plant.
For those hardy squash, beans, and root vegetables, you can try to eat them raw, but it may just end up in a challenge for your teeth and stomach. Written by: Kelsie Crane
If you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll ask you for a glass of milk. But, if you give a mouse chicken feed, fresh water, warm bedding, and a safe place to sleep, he’ll make a home in your chicken coop, invite his friends, contaminate the feed and water, and introduce parasites and diseases to your chickens.
Like the boy in that adorable children’s book, I don’t get particularly squeamish from rodents like mice. Rats, on the other hand, no thank you! But together, those rodents can be vectors for nearly 50 different diseases affecting chickens and humans, most notably salmonella, and can also commonly carry mites into the coop. Infestations of rodents have been linked to both farm and house fires. Rats also love chicken eggs, and in extreme cases, they can even prey upon baby chicks or sleeping chickens. So, as cute as the field mice may be, its always best to keep them away from the coop.
Keep chicken feed and water out of reach. Chickens will give chase to rodents during the daytime, and they’ll occasionally catch them successfully. Mice and rats, being nocturnal, will come to feast when the chickens are sound asleep, so it’s best not to leave out a buffet for them.
Store bulk or bagged feed securely; think metal feed bins or locking metal trashcans. Mice can chew holes in feed bags, and even through plastic feed bins and trashcans.
Remove the chicken feed from the coop at night when you’re out locking up the chickens and store it safely with the bagged feed in a metal container. Alternatively, you can suspend the feeder so it hangs to keep it off the ground. Rats can cling to rope or even chain, so smooth cable is the best choice. Treadle style feeders require a hen’s weight to open and will easily keep mice from accessing the feed so you don’t have to remove it from the coop nightly.
Clean up spilled feed.Even if you remove the feed every night, anything that’s on the ground will be a gold mine for rodents. TIP: Switch to pellet feed to help prevent chickens from making a mess with their food.
Manual waterers make fresh water easy to access for rodents. Empty them nightly, and refill them with clean water in the morning for your chickens. Alternatively, switching to automatic watering systems like nipple waters will keep them from finding water in the coop.
Eliminate large holes or gaps in the coop. Rodents can chew through wood and plastic, and mice can squeeze through openings even smaller than one inch.
Use 1/2 inch hardware cloth or sheet metal to cover any large holes or gaps in the construction of your coop, and to enclose the run completely.
Bury wire around the perimeter of the coop and run to prevent rats from tunneling to get into the coop.
Tidy up the coop. Rodents thrive in messy, cluttered areas that don’t see much activity. Keep the coop clean, and the area around the coop free of debris to eliminate places where rodents can make a nest.
Change the bedding regularly.
Store fresh bedding in a metal container.
Eliminate clutter and debris around the coop where rodents can hide.
Keep the grass mowed around the coop, and the weeds at bay.
Harvest eggs daily. Rats love chicken eggs, so leaving eggs in the nesting box overnight give them something to come for.
Use Mint. Mint grown around the coop or dried and used in the nesting boxes or bedding can help deter rodents from coming around the coop. It’s important to note that this solution cannot be employed successfully on it’s own, and should be used in tandem with good coop and flock management to experience true benefits. In addition to keeping the rodents away, mint can also benefit hens through aromatherapy.
Adopt a cat or dog. Even if the dog or cat doesn’t hunt rodents, the smell of a larger animal in the area will help keep mice and rats at bay, as well as other larger predators on the hunt for chicken dinner. Just be careful not to adopt cats or dogs with a prey drive.
If prevention is unsuccessful, don’t be hard on yourself. Although rodents do not always show up in areas with chickens, they are a natural cohabitant. There are plenty of ways to eliminate a rodent population but it’s necessary to be very cautious with traps and poisons.