Baby Chicks, Backyard Chickens, Farming, WWOOF USA

Our Farm’s First WWOOFers

As a couple of young farmers, we get a lot done during the day. This year we have been so blessed that we are staying really busy and we’ve almost reached the point where we couldn’t continue to move forward with our business because we were spending nearly all of our 7 day work weeks on farm management and sales. In November, we visited a farm in Santa Barbara owned by a couple friends of ours, Kevin and Lauren Hanson, who are trying to revive an old avocado orchard. They had a group young, spunky, and passionate people out there working happily to help them reach their goals – WWOOFers. I had heard of the program, and loved the idea, but never imagined we had the capacity to open up our farm for work-stays. Kevin gave us the rundown and it sounded too good to be true. We dragged our feet of course, not sure how to provide them with a place to stay, and then got a call from a couple of women who wanted to come work. We threw together an old motorhome with cute thrift store finds, and voila! Jeremy picked them up from another farm in Carmel Valley. The were soon after joined by their friend.

 

We have had such an amazing experience with them! Since they are our first WWOOFers, we are delighted to share it with you. For those of you who are not familiar with WWOOF – it stands for WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It is a work-stay program designed to connect people with host farms in a mutually beneficial working relationship where knowledge and skills are shared. The program has a chapter in almost any country you can think of, including WWOOF-USA. This is where we get to thank the WWOOF Organization as a whole and WWOOF-USA specifically for creating an environment rich in knowledge and growth that grooms our future generations of farmers, or even just our future generations of responsible citizens!!

 

Our first WWOOFers came to California from Georgia. Their names are Katie, Brooke, and Chaz – and they have been so helpful! Katie is excellent at gardening, Brooke has a great eye for photography, and Chaz has learned he has a knack for construction. They’ve all learned to drive manual transmission, how to care for chickens, build coops, and so much more.

 

We’ve also had a great time with them: homemade pasta nights, a seven mile hike with the puppies, corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty’s Day, getting baby pigs, sightseeing trips to Los Angeles, and game nights. And tomorrow morning we will be milking goats in Santa Barbara with one of our favorite people, Emma Fowler with the Isla Vista Food Co-op, and catching a Jalama Burger on the way home to catch our first hatch of Lavender Orpingtons and Olive Eggers for the year. Life is good. The girls will be with us until March 28th, and Chaz will be here until April 10th. Then we will be looking for our next set of WWOOFers… any volunteers?

 

For fun, here is a peek at one of the pictures Brooke took with our Canon 50D.

 

 

And, as I promised! The winner for the Free T-Shirt from our last blog is Tammy! Please email me with your address and preferred size, and it will ship to you on April 10th. If you didn’t win, you have until the end of the month to Pre-Order your Dare 2 Dream Farm T-Shirts! 

 

Thanks for your support everyone!

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Chicken Health, Fresh Eggs

Scrambled Eggs: Insight into the Egg Industry, and Encouragement for Backyard Farmers

This video by the The Cornucopia Institute is incredible. Cage-free eggs or organic eggs sound great in principle but, as we suspected, the commercialized egg industry cuts corners on the quality of life for their mass production hens. The requirement for “outdoor access” is a term left open to a broad range of interpretations, and mass scale egg producers take advantage of that. This video is less than 5 minutes and really hits home about why we farm the way we do – and why we encourage you to be your own source for eggs by raising chickens with all the love and care they deserve.

 

 

In the appendix to their report “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture”, The Cornucopia Institute discusses the three approaches to organic egg production (pasture-based, permanent housing, and industrial organics) and the corners cut by industrial organic egg producers including that “chickens don’t like to go outside.” It exposes rogue animal welfare labels and identifies the good ones. If you can’t raise your own chickens this is a great read to help you identify the best egg sources for you or your family.

 

For more information on our pasture-based farming, you can visit our website to Meet the Flock or read About the Farm for pictures of our mobile housing and chicken pastures.

Breeds

Barred Plymouth Rocks

We got an awesome email today from one of our customers of a picture with her Barred Plymouth Rock sitting on her shoulder. We told her the Barred Rocks were friendly, and this little one really lived up to her description! She said: “Who needs a parrot when you have a Barred Rock?”

Barred Rocks are part of the Plymouth Rock breed – Barred is the color variety aptly named from the black and white bars running through each feather. They are excellent egg layers, excellent foragers, and clearly they make excellent friends! They are by far our favorite of all chickens. Some say they’re noisy, but they really are just very interactive and like to talk to anyone who will listen. They certainly have a lot to talk about as they’re insatiably curious and love to explore their surroundings and help with gardening chores.

 

These girls lay a big, beautiful brown egg almost daily and will even lay through a good portion of winter during their prime and you can expect around 240 of them each year. Crossing a Barred Rock hen with a Rhode Island Red or New Hampshire Red rooster will produce a Black Sexlink which is bred specifically for laying and dons a similar curious and interactive personality.

 

Visit our website for more information on Barred Rocks, and the Plymouth Rock Breed.

Baby Chicks

Raising Baby Chicks

Springtime is upon us again… it’s baby chick season! Lots of us will begin to entertain the idea of raising chicks at home – even those of us who do it for a living (yes, I’m writing this with a 1 week old baby Blue Cochin on my shoulder named Elle). or those who’ve not yet had the pleasure, here is a quick tutorial on getting set up. Please, remember they are indeed very fragile as babies, and do need special care. The joy of introducing children to baby chicks is wonderful but this is not a task for young children without supervision.

 

What you’ll need:

  1. Heat lamp
  2. Brooder box: This can be made out of anything you have laying around such as large cardboard boxes, large plastic storage containers, large metal water troughs, etc.)
  3. Bedding: We recommend pine shavings but there are also other alternatives. Just be sure to avoid cedar shavings.
  4. Chick feeder and chick waterer: There are all different sizes and styles of feeders and waterers. It is best to use ones designed for baby chicks which help prevent them from soiling or spilling their food and water source, and also prevent them from drowning in it.
  5. Chick starter crumbles
  6. A warm place inside

 

Setting up:

Find a place inside to set up your brooder box that is insulated and remains a fairly constant temperature. Garages can be drafty and often prove to be difficult places to maintain the right temperature.  Depending on the box you’ve chosen, you may want to consider setting down an old sheet, tarp, newspapers, or rags underneath the box to prevent spilled feed, water, or shavings from soiling your carpets or floors. Put approximately 1-2 inches of bedding in the bottom of the brooder box. Attach your heat lamp to the corner of the box or to a surface nearby the brooder box. Place the chick feeders and waterers in the box away from the heat lamp. If you can, prop the feeders and waterers up on small bricks, blocks, pavers, or other items to raise them a bit above the bedding to help prevent soiled bedding from being scattered into their food and water source. When you settle in your new chicks into their brooder box, it is a good idea to dip their beaks in the water so they know where it is. 

 

For more information about what to look for, cleanliness, and what temperature to keep them at, visit our website page on Raising Baby Chicks.

 

For information on our brooder packages that include baby chicks and everything you need to raise them, visit our website page on Brooder Packages.

Breeds

Egyptian Fayoumis

Egyptian Fayoumis originated in Egypt, along the Nile River, and have existed for thousands of years. Although they have existed in America for over 70 years, the American Poultry Association has yet to officially recognize the breed, so it does not have a standard of perfection. 

 

Egyptian Fayoumi hen foraging for pumpkins at the beginning of winter.

 

Traits: Fayoumis are a small bird that comes in only one color variation. The heads and long necks are purely silver, while the rest of their compact body is barred in silver and black all the way through the tail. They have a single comb, large black eyes, dark beaks, and slate blue skin. This breed has lots of energy, so it loves to forage and it is very good at it. Some have offered that Egyptian Fayoumis could exist without human care and in the wild. Because of their small body, and light feathering, this breed is very adaptable to hot weather.

 

Egyptian Fayoumi Chicks

 

Personality: Flighty. Fayoumis are high energy, and self-sufficient contributing to their independent nature. Although you wouldn’t consider them to be a “friendly” breed, they are not aggressive towards humans or other chickens, and the roosters are generally very calm. They tend to be very loud and vocal much more frequently than other breeds. 

Eggs: Egyptian Fayoumis are quick to mature. Hens will begin to lay much earlier than standard breeds, sometimes around four and a half months. They are good layers of small, off-white eggs. They are not prone to broodiness, so you’ll see consistent production from your Fayoumi girls.