Farm kid holding a hen by Bottle Branding
Backyard Chickens, Community, Farming, homesteading, Kids and Chickens

Enter to Win #thefarmerinme Photo Contest!

PRIZE: $75 Dare 2 Dream Farms gift certificate, an 8×8 hardcover copy of Dare 2 Dream Farms’ coffee table book signed by us, and 4 adorably farm-chic coasters.

TO ENTER: 1) Like the contest announcement photo on Instagram 2) Like us @dare2dreamfarms on Instagram 3) Post your best photo of your urban farming lifestyle on Instagram using the hashtag #thefarmerinme and our handle @dare2dreamfarms

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.

Rules & Restrictions apply. Click here for details. 

Farm kid holding a hen by Bottle Branding
Wyatt holds a laying hen in the Dare 2 Dream Farms laying flock for #thefarmerinme photo contest. Photo by Bottle Branding, Lompoc, CA
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White Plymouth Rock Rooster
Backyard Chickens, Roosters

Re-homing Chickens: Where to find that seemingly impossible forever home for roosters and old laying hens.

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.

chicks as pets
Kids raise chicks to be companions. Photo by: MichelleWarrenPhotography.com

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.

What's not to love?
Chickens provide more than just eggs, like companionship or even therapy.

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.

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.

Roosters can be a productive member of a backyard chicken flock.
Roosters can be a productive member of the flock. Photo by Melissa Folks Photography

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.

Author: Megan Raff

Co-Owner/Founder of Dare 2 Dream Farms

 

 

Backyard Chickens, Chicken Health, homesteading

Heat Busters for the Coop!

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!

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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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

NKTM 50%-60% Sunblock Shade Cloth, Cut Edge UV Resistant Shade for Plant Cover, Greenhouse, Barn or Kennel

Don’t forget to remind your fellow chicken keepers about protecting their hens! For more ideas, visit the Dare 2 Dream Farms Forum.

Backyard Chickens, Breeds, Fresh Eggs

The Backyard Chicken Egg Rainbow: Selecting breeds for their distinctive egg colors

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.

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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.

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Backyard Chickens, Chicken Coops, Chicken Health, Farming, homesteading

6 Tips for a Rodent-Free Coop

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.

field-mouse
Field mice: totally adorable, but best kept away from your chickens. Photo by: Bottle Branding
  1. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
  2. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. Bury wire around the perimeter of the coop and run to prevent rats from tunneling to get into the coop.

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      1/2 inch hardware cloth used to cover ventilation holes in a chicken coop
  3. 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.
    1. Change the bedding regularly.
    2. Store fresh bedding in a metal container.
    3. Eliminate clutter and debris around the coop where rodents can hide.
    4. Keep the grass mowed around the coop, and the weeds at bay.
  4. Harvest eggs daily. Rats love chicken eggs, so leaving eggs in the nesting box overnight give them something to come for.
  5. 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.

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    Mint grows easily and can be used fresh or dried in a chicken coop to deter rodents.
  6. 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.

 

 

Backyard Chickens, Fresh Eggs, Pecking Order, Uncategorized

4 Important Things to Consider when Ordering your First Chickens

In addition to looking forward to scrumptious and beautiful eggs, as backyard chicken keepers, we also hope that our feathered, breakfast-making ladies will be our pets too. As you prepare to get chickens for your coop and backyard, there are a few important things to consider in order to foster a flock that is healthy, happy with each other, and happy with us. (Note: this will certainly make for the-most-delicious-tasting eggs.)

  1. Choose wisely when deciding on the number of chickens you’ll get. First, check with your city ordinances to find out if there is a limit to the number of chickens you can keep. Next, determine the maximum number of chickens you can keep based on the size of your chicken coop. Chickens, like most living beings, need personal space and some freedom to move about. If you pack too many hens into a small area, you’re asking for heavy cleaning and loads of bickering (or worse), somewhat like taking kids for a long car ride! You can generally assume that about 10 square feet per chicken should be sufficient, less if you plan to free range them outside the coop. Lastly, determine how many eggs your household will reasonably use, sell, barter, or give away. On average, a good laying hen will give you 5 eggs per week.
  2. Keep pullets around the same age or size. We recommend keeping adolescent pullets within a couple months of age of each. If you’re starting with baby chicks, keep them all within a few weeks of each other – they will need much different heat requirements if they’re too far apart in age. If you’re starting with mature hens – they’ll all be the same size and the age does not matter. It may seem like a great idea to get some chickens that are ready to lay to appease our excitement to harvest fresh eggs, and some chickens that are small and fluffy that we can bond with. Unfortunately, putting together a group of chickens of wildly different ages can be really tough on the little ones, and its never okay to put baby chicks together with adolescents or adults who are not currently broody and ready to be mothers. Younger chickens in a flock of older birds will often get ostracized from the group, kept away from the food and water, and subjected to a much tougher and lengthy pecking order. Baby chicks will not survive the cold or the pecking order, and getting just one baby chick for your brooder will make it lonely, stressed, and cause other health problems.
  3. Avoid including just one chicken who looks different from the rest. Surely you’ve heard the saying “Birds of a feather flock together,” and it’s true: chickens seem to know when they look like each other. They’ll pair up or stay in groups that look alike and the one chicken that doesn’t look like anyone else will get left out. Our favorite recommendation is to get all different breeds. Chickens become like pets and will probably all get names, and this makes it easy to tell them apart. You could also get all the same breeds, get pairs or multiples of different breeds, or make sure there are at least 2 chickens that look different from the rest.
  4. Integrate chickens as few times as possible. It may seem like a good idea at the time to start with a couple, and get more as you go but the pecking order can be a nasty score to settle for some chickens. This is not to say it isn’t possible or it’s too hard, but it’s not pleasant and it can be quite a bit of work.  Unless you’re absolutely not prepare to bring your ideal number of chickens in all at once, or your heart is set on breeds who will hatch in different times of the year we recommend getting everyone at once.

For more helpful information on getting started with chickens, purchase tickets to our Backyard Chickens Classes or browse our free Care Guide!

by: Megan Raff

Backyard Chickens, Farming

Top 5 Vegetables for your Chickens – Each Season of the Year

Chickens will love what your growing in your garden, just as much as you do!

You may be wondering what is good (and maybe not so good) to be feeding your chickens from the garden and kitchen compost.

Do I feed my chickens pumpkins all year round?

Should I avoid onions and avocados?

Are there some greens that are better than others?

The answers are actually very easy to find. NATURE PROVIDES! Each season, there are a variety of different vegetables that are able to be grown and they differ based on temperature, climate, sunlight, and precipitation. In the Summer, the garden is full of fruiting vegetables and juicy berries. In the Fall, summer squash, corn and beans begin to grow. During Winter, there are pumpkins and root vegetables. And in the Spring, greens, celeriac, and avocados! During these seasons, it is a fantastic idea to plant a little more for your chickens, feed them all scraps, and make sure they are getting an abundant amount of leftovers from your garden. Whether it be just the weeds and vines, or the seeds of your squash, or the tops of your root vegetables. If you’r not using them, your chickens will love the treat!

Spring Vegetables

-Lettuce and Leafy Greens – All are excellent to feed to your chickens and are full of nutrients and water, creating a great treat for the dark orange egg yolk!

-Flowers – Nasturtium and rose are excellent for Vitamin C, Chrysanthemum helps boost immunity, and Marigolds have the ability to heal skin.

-Asparagus – This dainty vegetable has a cleansing effect to maintain good health and immunity as well as properties to raise serotonin and dopamine which can improve mood and overall well being!

-Herbs – Oregano can be used as a natural antibiotic; Bee Balm can aid in respiratory and digestive health; Mint can help repel mice and bugs in the coop; Thyme acts as a natural bug repellent; and Parsley is high in nutrients and can boost blood vessel health.

-Avocados – These delicious tree fruits will be enjoyed by chickens! It is best to avoid feeding chickens too many though, because the flesh is high in fat and can then pose health problems. Skins and pits are fine in moderation; they will be avoided if not enjoyed.

Summer Vegetables

-Beans – Best if feeding only as a kitchen scrap after being thoroughly cooked and a good source of protein for eggs and healthy feathering.

-Tomatoes – With so many varieties available, it is safe to feed chickens the fruit of a tomato plant. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, especially picked right from the garden.

– Bell Peppers – Peppers contain a high amount of Vitamin C and some Vitamin B that is great for chicken skin and system functions. Hot Peppers can alter the flavor of your chickens eggs and should be fed in moderation.

-Strawberries – It may be hard to share these with your girls, but they are a good source of Vitamin C and sugar, boosting energy and happiness!

-Melons – High in antioxidants and great for a hot summer treat during the long days in the sun, melons are a treat and also a great source of sugars for happiness and energy. Cucumbers are similarly beneficial for chickens!

Fall Vegetables

-Carrots and Beets – Along with many root vegetables, both contain anti carcinogen properties and are so loaded with Vitamin C! They will turn your egg yolks that dark orange, indicating a nutrient rich egg.

-Zucchini – Zucchini flesh and seeds act as a natural dewormer, a great way to assist in preparing for the winter deworming treatment. Worms can tend to be more of a problem in the Fall and Winter.  Feeding zucchini, onions, garlic, and pumpkin insides is a great way to naturally treat any load of worms.

-Sunflower Seeds – When the sunflowers start falling over and drying up, feeding chickens the seeds and shells is good for egg production and healthy feathers, preparing for a winter molt.

– Green Beans & Peas – Great to feed cooked or raw. Can be fatty and should not be fed in too much excess or as the only treat from the garden.

-Onions and Garlic – Although they may alter the taste of your eggs, both onions and garlic will work as a natural dewormer. If they are changing the egg flavor too much to your liking, just lighten the amount your giving them.

Winter Vegetables

-Cabbage – A great “toy” to hang from the roof  with a string, chickens will peck at it until it’s gone. Cabbage also provides a good source of nutrients when the summer veggies are out for the season.

-Broccoli – One of the favorites, broccoli is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, which acts as a natural disinfectant for chickens and can aid in fighting off winter illnesses.

-Pumpkins – Also full of delicious seeds and flesh, you can bet that the only thing left will be the outer shell. The seeds are a great dewormer for your chicken during the winter and a good source of protein for hardy eggs and feather production when coming out of a molt.

-Kale – Like most dark leafy greens, Kale is an excellent source of nutrients needed in the winter months. Just like its dark dense color, kale is dense in nutrients making great eggs.

-Celery – This vegetable is fine to feed your chickens, as long as it is not the only thing they will be eating. It is super fibrous and should not be fed without chicken feed or other garden treats.

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This is just a touch of items that you can grow in your garden to supplement your flock. It is very important to feed your chickens the correct feed, first and foremost. If they are getting the runs from eating too much of the supplemental garden goodies, you can give them milk or some dairy, which will help harden up their poops and keep things from getting too messy.

You can plant a portion of your garden just for your chickens and they may just come some excellent garden helpers!

 

Written by: Kelsie Crane