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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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.

      weathertop vent holes.jpg
      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.

 

 

Community, Farming, Uncategorized

Come Together: Lets build community

Here at Dare 2 Dream Farms, we have been pondering new ways to get involved in our community and support some of our local organizations. Because we are an organic produce growing farm, with an abundance of chicken eggs… we decided last fall to start a Farm Stand here at the farm! This gives our customers and members of the community an opportunity to come and visit the farm and pick out fresh produce, picked that morning!

We have decided to reach out to 12 local organizations this year, 2017, to support and donate proceeds from the farm stand. Every First Thursday of each month we will be donating to a different Lompoc club, non-profit, or community outreach program. Between November and January we donated to Planting a Seed, the LHS Girl’s Basketball Team, and the Boys & Girls Club. For the rest of the year we will be partnering with:

  • February: Planting a Seed Foundation
  • March: Lompoc YMCA
  • April: Lompoc High School’s FFA (Future Farmers of America)
  • May: Supportive Services for Veterans & their Families (SSVF)
  • August: Children’s Resource Network of the Central Coast
  • October: Lompoc Food Pantry
  • November: Lompoc 4-H Chapter

It is rewarding to be able to support some of these community organizations that are out there helping so many others in our community. Please feel free to join us on any given Thursday to support our local Farm Stand. Look for the sign at the end of the road with an arrow pointing our direction!

farm-stand-sign

Lastly: If you know of any organizations that would greatly appreciate local fundraising, please urge them to reach out to us!

Written by: Kelsie Crane

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.

chickens-35-of-170

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

Chicken Health, Farming

Perks of Pumpkins

Every November, when Halloween has come and gone, our neighbor Jim gives us all the picked-over pumpkins from his patch down the road. We load up the bed of our old Ford pickup and truck tons of free feed to our pasture for the chickens. The hens effortlessly devour the piles of pumpkins, pecking a hole in one side and cleaning them out, seeds, membrane and pulp, leaving only the skin for us to toss in the compost.

 

These free pumpkins are a huge plus for us and for the hens. Not only do we save a pretty penny on chicken feed, but the chickens absolutely love it! The pumpkins are also a huge plus for our egg customers. The beta-carotene in pumpkins help create an even more beautiful orange supple yolk. So, what other great benefits are hidden in pumpkins?

Blue Andalusian Foraging for Pumpkins in Fall

 

NUTRIENT PACKED TREATS

 

Pumpkins are a low calorie fruit packed with protein, dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, and more. Most of the benefits are found concentrated in the seeds, but pumpkin as a whole packs a big ol’ nutrient punch, so let’s see what this chicken super-food is made of:

 

  • Vitamins A, C, and E: Pumpkin contains lots of anti-oxidants and boasts one of the highest counts of Vitamin A in its family which makes it a great immunity booster as well as a benefit for hear t health. 
  • Protein: About the same time that pumpkins ripen in fall, chickens molt, growing new feathers for winter. Since feathers are 85% protein, a chicken’s need for dietary protein increases tremendously. Pumpkin seeds, like sunflower seeds, are a really good source of protein, and naturally timed for the occasion! 
  • Beta-Carotene: The bright orange color of pumpkins indicates that they’re a storehouse for beta-carotene. Not only is this directly linked to an increase in beautiful orange yolks, but it may also play a role in cancer prevention. (Yes, chickens can get cancer too!) 
  • Plant-based Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Raw seeds, including pumpkin seeds, are one of the best sources for plant-based Omega-3s! 
  • Amino Acid Tryptophan: The same amino acid that made turkey famous is readily found in pumpkins too. Tryptophan is the ultimate mood-booster for happy hens. 
  • Zinc, magnesium, potassium, copper, calcium, and phosphorus: These minerals found abundantly in pumpkin seeds have a wide range of health benefits from immunity to heart health. 
  • Dietary fiber: Although the necessity of fiber is different in chickens than humans, a good source of fiber can help our feathered friends with nutrient digestibility, enzyme production, and organ development. 
  • B-Complex Vitamins: The fruit of pumpkins is a good source of folates, thiamin, niacin, and vitamin B-6. For your chickens, these B-complex vitamins help break down food and nutrients for them to use, and also help them respond to stress. 

 

THE THEORY OF PUMPKINS AS A NATURAL DEWORMER

 

 

Many backyard chicken blogs and forums are filled with excitement over the theory that pumpkins can be used as a natural dewormer. Outspoken chicken keepers tout their success with natural wormers when their healthy hens have a low incidence of worms. But most researchers have significant doubts about the true effectiveness of pumpkins as a wormer. Let’s break it down:

 

Pumpkins are part of the cucurbitaceae family which also includes other winter squashes, zucchini, and cucumbers. The seeds from these plants boast particularly high levels of cucurbitacin relative to other plant families. In test tubes, large quantities of cucurbitacin have been found to paralyze worms such as tapeworms and roundworms. This is where the excitement is born for using pumpkins as an all-natural wormer for chickens. However, the question is whether chickens can consume an adequate dose of cucurbitacin from pumpkin seeds, given the relatively small amount found in each seed, and the small size of a chicken’s diet, to effectively paralyze worms. So, although some homesteaders may suggest that it has worked for their pigs, cattle or sheep, the same dependable results may not occur in poultry. And the bottom line is that there is actually little to no research on worming chickens and other poultry at all, with formulated wormers, pumpkins, or other traditional homeopathic wormers, such as garlic and nasturtium. Research exists only for using formulated wormers on larger livestock.

 

Essentially, there is just no proof that pumpkins act as a successful wormer for chickens, but given how much our chickens love to eat them, and their excellent health benefits, there’s no reason not to feed them as a treat with a tiny hope that it could be helping to reduce the population of intestinal worms. Find your local pumpkin patch and see if you can work out a deal for the picked over pumpkins, or ask your neighbors for their carved pumpkins before they throw them out on November 1st.

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Summertime Egg Recipes

Summer is here with it’s abundance of glorious foods: sun-ripened tomatoes ready to fall off the vine, boxes of California avocados, baskets of bright green spinach and zucchinis, and of course, for backyard chicken keepers, nesting boxes overflowing with freshly laid eggs courtesy of our feathered friends. Sunny side up eggs on whole grain toast is always met with enthusiasm in the morning on our farm, but for added excitement, here is a collection of some of our other favorite recipes for this season.

 

Local Eggs - Out of the Box Collective

Out of the Box Collective – Local Eggs

SPINACH QUICHE by JENNIFER PIETTE, OUT OF THE BOX COLLECTIVE

This egg and spinach dish is a hearty way to start your day. Saute up fresh, local spinach, spread into a pie crust, and cover with eggs, milk, salt, black pepper, and nutmeg. Sprinkle with your choice of cheese and chuck it in an oven preheated to 375F. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is browned, but still moist. Roast tomatoes in the oven to pair with the quiche and top the quiche with your choice of herbs. 

 

 

SPINACH BALLS

Excellent appetizers for summertime gatherings, this will easily feed plenty of hungry mouths after outdoor activities. Spinach, stuffing crumbs, Parmesan cheese, 4 eggs, butter, pepper, nutmeg, and onion: Mix, shape, and bake! 

 

 

GERMAN APPLE PANCAKES or DUTCH BABY

Grandma makes this dish as a small dessert for family dinner nights, but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner too! (So could Grandpa!) Brown butter in a skillet, and sprinkle with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Line the skillet with apples and cook over medium-high heat until simmering. Pour batter over the simmering apples and slip the skillet into the oven at 375F for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a squeeze of lemon, or a helping of maple syrup. 

 

 

AVOCADO BREAKFAST BAKE

Wellness Mama – Avocado Bake

California avocados are incredible – and if you’re from California, you know anyone with an avocado tree is always trying to find a happy home for their boxes and bags of avocados this season. I find it effortless to eat an entire avocado in one sitting, so this recipe is perfect (not to mention easy)! Halve an avocado, remove the pit, and place on a baking dish. Crack an egg into each avocado and sprinkle with s+p. Bake for 15-20 min at 350F. Top with cilantro, tomatoes, cheese, green onions or any ingredients you choose. Viola & mmm…..

 

 

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE WITH ANGEL FOOD CAKE

We are located in strawberry field heaven, near Santa Maria, where the strawberries in fruit stands are today’s harvest of bright red, juicy delights! This light rendition on strawberry shortcake is perfect for a hot summer’s treat! Use twelve of your egg whites to make this fluffy angel food cake. Mix together 1 1/2 lbs of fresh sliced strawberries (or strawbobbies as my sister used to call them) and 3 tbsp sugar. Stir and refrigerate to let the juices develop. Place the strawberry mixture over sliced cake, top with whipped cream, and help yourself to two servings! Trust me, you can’t just have one. 

 

EGGS ON TOAST

But then there’s always eggs on toast for breakfast, and honestly, how can you go wrong? 

Eggs on Toast by Rachel Frenkel

 

Happy Summer!

Backyard Chickens, Farming, Fresh Eggs

Collecting, Cleaning, and Storing Eggs

You’ve built your coop and raised your chickens, and now they’re FINALLY laying eggs! But what do you do with all the eggs your girls start to lay? After the eggcitement of the first egg is all over, its time to find a routine for collecting, cleaning, and storing your fresh eggs. Here are some tips to get started with the right habits.

 

COLLECT DAILY, PREFERABLY IN THE EVENING

Chicken eggs are a commodity for animals as well as for humans. The smell of chicken eggs will likely attract pests such as rats, skunks, possums, and raccoons which you don’t want near your chickens. Collecting eggs daily, especially in the evening, is the best way to prevent those predators from coming around at night. 

It’s also a good idea to collect chicken eggs every evening to prevent the chickens from dirtying them, breaking them, and eating them. Chickens sometimes sleep in their nesting boxes, or walk all over a nest of eggs with dirty feet, making the eggs harder to clean. If they accidentally break one while climbing over a large nest of eggs, they will eat it out of curiosity. They may even begin to eat eggs out of boredom during the winter months when they’re stuck inside. Once they begin to eat their own eggs, they can form a bad habit that is really destructive, and really hard to break.

 

STORING EGGS

Eggs are laid with a natural mucous coating over the shell called a ‘cuticle’ or, more commonly, a ‘bloom.’ The bloom protects the egg from bacteria and controls the amount of water and air that is passed through the shell. This naturally keeps the eggs as fresh as possible without refrigeration, which is why you can keep fresh eggs in a cool, dry place such as your counter or cabinet rather than a refrigerator. However, they do stay fresh even longer if they are unwashed and refrigerated. Once the bloom is washed away with water, they do require refrigeration to keep them from going bad. We recommend collecting your eggs and keeping them unwashed in a clean carton in the refrigerator, and then washing your eggs just before using them. 

KEEPING THEM CLEAN

The saying “prevention is better than cure” goes for dirty eggs as well. In addition to collecting daily, the easiest way to have clean eggs is to keep a clean nesting box. Routinely check the nesting boxes and remove or replace dirty shavings, especially during winter when mud is prevalent and chickens have no manners to wipe their feet! Discouraging your hens from sleeping in the nesting boxes also helps tremendously. Keep roosts away from nesting boxes, and preferably in a higher place than the nesting boxes. 

DRY CLEANING

If you must wash your eggs before you store them, it is best to dry wash them. Dry washing uses an abrasive, such as sandpaper, an abrasive sponge, a sanding block, or other abrasive utensil to scrape or rub off any dirt or poop. This leaves the majority of the bloom intact and keeps the egg as safe as possible while still removing the yucky stuff. 

 

 

WET CLEANING

If you must wash them with water to remove the dirt and poop, be conscientious about the way you wash! Be sure the water you’re washing with is at least 20 degrees warmer than the eggs as washing with colder water creates a vacuum which sucks bacteria into the egg. It’s best not to soak them in water, but rather to wash them under running water. If you must use detergent, it is best to use natural dish detergent rather than antibacterial soaps.  

HOW LONG DO EGGS LAST?

Eggs should last approximately 45 days from the date they were laid if kept in the right conditions; however you should use them as soon as possible for maximum freshness and taste. After eggs are approximately one month old, it is best to test them for freshness before using them.

FLOATING EGGS TO TEST FOR FRESHNESS

To test for freshness, you can float your eggs. The broad side of the egg is filled with an air sac. The older the egg, the more air fills the sac. The more air is in the sac, the more the egg floats. Place your egg in a large bowl filled with cold water. If the egg sinks to the bottom and stays laying on its side, it’s still fresh and good to eat. The higher the broad side of the egg floats up, the older it is. If the broad side of the egg floats straight up and leaves the egg standing on the pointed side, its nearly a month old and should be eaten before it goes bad. If the egg floats right to the top, it’s old and probably is no longer good to eat.


FOR MORE TIPS ON EGGS AND MORE BACKYARD CHICKEN TOPICS

Visit the Care Guide section of our website at www.dare2dreamfarms.com. If you have any tips you’d like to share with your fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts, leave a comment below!