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 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, 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.

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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

Farming

Do you LOVE farming?

What's not to love?Of all the questions we answer regarding backyard chickens, coops, and urban farming, the most common question we hear is “Do you LOVE your job?” The cool thing about this question is that even on long delivery days or hot and grimy farmwork days, we get to say yes! We have a lot of reasons to love our job: we work with each other, with adorable baby chicks, delicious farm fresh eggs, and we get to travel around the beautiful state of California to deliver aforementioned cute chicks to super-cool customers. There’s really not much to dislike about our job. But here’s the best part:

The most satisfying and fulfilling part of farming for us is the human interactions. There are so many people who just want to get their hands dirty as a way of escaping from their daily commutes and 9-5s, intensive curriculums, or busy city lifestyles. People crave sunshine. They want to see the miracle of sprouting seeds or learn the art of humanely raising animals for food.

Out at the farm we get to show our incredibly awesome and diverse group of work-stay guests from WWOOF-USA how to do what we do: from hatching and raising baby chicks, to keeping laying hens and gardening. It’s like camp: they spend around 1-3 months with us and group of their peers learning the ins-and-outs of farm life. When they travel on, many of them gift us with letters describing the immense changes they’ve undergone since arriving at the farm, and why they’re so thankful for their time with us. (We usually cry, and then save them to read again later!) Lots of them stay in touch. Some move on to other farms where they’ll get to share their newly earned knowledge. Some find new direction for their education or career. Others simply find a way to incorporate a bit of farm life into their regular lifestyle with plans to keep it growing.

Our farm’s main product is backyard chickens. We hatch and raise baby chicks to make it possible for people to start keeping chickens for eggs. Of course there’s an intrinsic joy to keeping chickens just like other pets – it’s especially evident on the kids’ faces when we pull up in our chicken-mobile to bring them their new little chickens. Let me tell you – being a part of that joy is priceless. But even after their cute baby chicks grow up, there’s the excitement of finding their hens’ first eggs, or the satisfaction of giving a dozen fresh eggs away as a ‘thank you’ gift to someone who has never experienced the taste of eggs from hens that are truly cared for. Our customers call us months or even years down the road just to tell us how much they love their chickens. Then they get to share with and teach their friends, neighbors, and children the benefits and joys of humanely keeping an animal for food. We believe in what we are doing, and we know that our business is putting honest value into people’s lives.

Most importantly, backyard chickens are a gateway to farming – tearing up lawn, building raised garden beds, and sometimes even moving out of the city and investing time, money and energy in DIRT. This is the kind of change people are looking for, and we get to help ignite it! What’s not to love about that?