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Monday, October 28, 2013

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.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Helping your Hens Molt Gracefully

Every year at about this time, panic sets in for our new clients as they notice concerning changes in their hens between feather loss and egg production loss. It’s excellent to hear that chicken moms and dads are aware of the changes taking place in their flock. And when they happen, it’s a good idea to give a quick health check up to the girls. But if its late summer or fall, and you see a combo of egg production changes and feather loss, you can rest assured that it’s just their yearly molt. Here are a few things you should know to help them molt gracefully.

DESCRIPTION

Molting is usually an annual occurrence in which both roosters and hens lose all their old, worn-out feathers and regrow new ones to prepare for colder winter weather. During a molt, hens require more nutrients and energy to regrow feathers, and in order to reserve these resources, they will either slow, or stop laying eggs. If hens do happen to continue laying eggs while molting, you can expect to see soft-shelled eggs because of the strain on their resources, so don’t be alarmed. 

Molting and Pin Feathers
Molting takes a period of weeks or months as it progresses through different parts of the body. When nearing a molt, feathers lose their sheen and become very dull looking. The progressive design of a molt helps to prevent a chicken from being barren of feathers as the weather begins to cool, although sometimes it is occasionally unsuccessful. The process of molting then begins with the feathers on the head, followed in order by the neck, back, breast, stern, thighs, wings, and finally the tail. Good layers begin to molt later in the year and finish more quickly, taking only 2-3 months. Poor layers start molting earlier, usually before September, and take much longer (up to 6 months) to finish.

FOCUS ON A HIGH PROTEIN DIET

Feathers are made up of 85% protein, so during a molt, a chicken’s need for dietary protein increases. Make sure to feed molting chickens a higher protein layer feed (16-18% protein). It’s also a good idea to limit treating hens with scratch; and instead, supplement with high protein treats such as:

  • Seeds (especially Black Oil Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds) 
  • Sprouted grains, such as alfalfa 
  • Mealworms and Earthworms 
  • Raw meat or fish (not chicken) 

Although you may read that feeding your chickens scrambled or hard-boiled eggs will help with protein, we don’t recommend it as it’s possible to instigate egg eating, a nightmare behavior in which chickens lay eggs and turn around to eat them because of their flavor and their high protein and calcium content. As always, Apple Cider Vinegar is a great health supplement when added to their water. It is packed with vitamins and minerals and acts as a natural health booster that can help chickens keep their energy up to get through a molt much easier.

PIN FEATHERS AND FEATHER PECKING

The new feathers that begin to grow in are called pin feathers. The blood seen in pin feathers is normal, and is used to nourish growth. However the blood in pin feathers can incite feather picking in a flock, especially because they’re all in high need of protein which is found in feathers. Keep stress levels particularly low this time of year, and keep an eye out for cannibalism. Tips for keeping stress levels low in a molting flock:

Move slowly around your hens.
Don’t introduce too much change at once. (Adding new birds, coop construction, introducing light, or locking them in the coop for longer periods than normal can incite bad behavior.)
Leave out treats for them to scratch and peck through for entertainment (pumpkins are readily available at this time of year and are a great low calorie, vitamin packed treat).

A GOOD TIME FOR DEWORMING

If you like to deworm your flock once a year, this is a great time to deworm your flock. While using a dewormer, eggs can’t be eaten, so it makes sense to deworm when there are fewer eggs to throw away. Additionally, this ensures they’re getting 100% of the nutrients they need for the molt from their diet, rather than being robbed by a mess of roundworms.

EFFECTS OF MOLTING

After molting, at the beginning of the next laying cycle, feed efficiency is improved, eggs are larger, and egg quality is better than it was at the end of the last laying cycle. Each passing year, though, production decreases overall so hens naturally won’t produce as well as they once did, and egg quality declines faster.

MOLTING CONTESTS FOR COMIC RELIEF

For pictures of really terrible molts, for assurance or entertainment, you can browse through the Backyard Chickens Molt Competition. Here are the links for this year’s competition as well as a couple years before: 2013, 2012, and 2011. We all need someone who smiles at us when we’re having a bad hair day.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Perfecting your Egg-cellent Breakfast: Soft-Cooked Eggs

We enjoy our eggs in countless ways -- sunny-side up, poached and smothered in Hollandaise sauce, or gently enveloping your favorite cheese and veggies in a fluffy omelet. Soft-cooked eggs on toast was my ultimate comfort breakfast food as a kid. But I could also be quite finicky about them - firm, chalky yolks were tossed in the trash and I wrinkled my nose at under-cooked whites. Eighteen years later, America's Test Kitchen took this one to the lab and came up with a FOOLPROOF method for soft-cooked eggs. They're technique yields results that will satisfy every time, with perfectly solidified whites and soft, glossy yolks that will saturate a piece of buttered whole grain toast beautifully.
Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs, Cooks Illustrated
Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs, Cooks Illustrated

Because we can't see the inside of an egg while it's cooking, it's difficult to guess when exactly it reaches the perfect doneness. And since egg whites and yolks harden at different temperatures, timing is of the essence. Hundreds of eggs later, the brilliant food scientists in the Test Kitchen discovered that steaming, rather than boiling the eggs, yields better soft-cooked eggs. While dropping cold eggs into boiling water temporarily lowers the water temperature and therefore alters cooking time based on the number of eggs, steaming uses such a low amount of water that the curved edge of an egg in contact with the water will not significantly affect the overall temperature in the steaming pot. What's more, eggs will not crack and lose half the white to the cooking water from the harsh pressure change that often accompanies the full-boil method.

To steam your eggs, even without a proper steam basket, simply fill a saucepan with a half inch of water and bring it to a boil. Then place as many eggs as you'd like in the pot, cover with a lid so the water is simmering, and set your timer for six and a half minutes. Promptly remove the pot from the heat and run the eggs under cold water for 30 seconds. Enjoy any way you like -- scooped right from shell, as a dip for tender spears of asparagus, or peeled and broken over that thick slice of toast!

Written by: Carly Chaapel
Edited by: Megan Raff

Sources:

Cook's Illustrated. "Foolproof Soft-Cooked Eggs." 1 Jan. 2013. http://www.cooksillustrated.com/recipes/article.asp?docid=41579

Friday, June 21, 2013

Araucana Chickens: The Original Blue Egg Layer

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,
Sam-I-am”         –Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss

While many children read this classic story and think of green eggs as nothing more than another figment of Dr. Seuss’s incredible imagination, green eggs do in fact exist. And “Sam-I-am” does not lie – they are delicious. The green eggs at Dare2Dream Farms come from its Easter Egg chickens, which lay an olive-green egg. This beautiful, unique trait of Easter Eggers comes from its ancestor: the Araucana.

Green Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms
Green Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms
Araucanas are tufted (large feather tufts sprouting next to their ears), rumpless (without a tail), and lay blue eggs. Their history is a complicated and not quite-so-clear one. In Chile, the Araucana Indians had two native chicken breeds: Collonca chickens were small, rumpless, had a single small comb, and laid blue eggs; Quetro chickens had ear tufts, tails, a pea comb, and laid pinkish-brown eggs.  Dr. Rueben Bustos, a Chilean chicken expert, developed a breed that was a combination of these two Chilean chickens. He led Professor Salvador Castello from Spain to believe that it was a native breed, and Castello excited the poultry world when he presented this ‘native Chilean pure breed of chicken’ at the First World’s Poultry Congress in 1921. He discovered three years later that these Araucana chickens were not a pure breed, but by then word had spread and it was too late to set the record straight.

Many varieties of these blue-egg-laying chickens were bred in the U.S., but because no standard was yet set for a chicken to be passed as an Araucana, all of these muddled blue-egg-laying breeds became labeled as Araucana. It became falsely believed that Araucanas’ blue eggs were extraordinarily nutritious, so farmers were breeding Araucanas with every type of chicken and passing them off as Araucanas. As a result, the breed standard became very unclear.

In 1976 the APA set the Araucana standard to be tufted and rumpless (disqualifying all previously-labeled Araucanas that were bearded, muffed, and tailed, which went on to become labeled as American Araucanas, or Ameraucanas).

Splash Araucana Cockerel - Illia Chavez
Splash Araucana Cockerel - Illia Chavez
The gene that requires Araucanas to be tufted, while a necessary trait according to the standard, is a fatal one when two copies of it are passed to a chicken. If two copies of the tufted gene are inherited, a chick will almost always die in the shell. If only one copy is passed to a chicken, the chicken will not be fatally affected, but will have tufts and can pass on the gene. So when breeding two tufted Araucanas with the genes Tt (T showing the dominant tufted gene and t representing the recessive non-tufted gene), probabilities of their offspring show 25% non-tufted (tt), 50% tufted (Tt) which may qualify as Araucanas, and 25% dead in the shell (TT). If a tufted and a non-tufted Araucana are bred, the probabilities of their offspring are 50% non-tufted (tt), and 50% tufted (Tt)Either way, most likely less than half of the offspring may be labeled as Araucana according to standard.

The Araucana is a calm, friendly chicken. In its true form according to standard, it is very rare to find, and very expensive to acquire. It serves a dual purpose of being a good layer of blue eggs, and providing a good amount of meat. The Araucana’s relative is most commonly seen in the form of an Easter Egger, which is loosely defined as any chicken possessing the blue-egg-laying gene. These chickens lay blue, green, or pink eggs. For really green eggs, Olive Eggers can be bred using any chicken carrying the blue egg gene, and any dark brown egg laying chicken such as Marans, Barnevelders, or Welsummers.

Marans, Easter Egger, and Olive Egger Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms
Marans, Easter Egger, and Olive Egger Eggs - Dare 2 Dream Farms



Are you reading this, and getting hungry? Nothing fills the stomach better than some green eggs and ham. And now you know where those green eggs come from!

Written by: Rachel Frenkel
Edited by: Megan Raff

Resources:  

"Easter Egger Club of America." EasterEggers.Com. Easter Egger Club of America, n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.
Orr, Richard A. "A History of the Ameraucana Breed and the Ameraucana Breeders Club." Ameraucana History. Ameracauna Breeders Club, 1998. Web. 19 June 2013.
Somes Jr., R.G., Pabilonia, M.S. (1981). "Ear tuftedness: a lethal condition in the Araucana fowl". The Journal of Heredity 72 (2): 121–4. PMID 7276512


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

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!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

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! 

Friday, March 22, 2013

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!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

New Free T-Shirt Giveaway!

We just created our first farm t-shirts! A great friend of ours, Imad Bolotok (a.k.a. Frosty back in the good days), has been doing some incredible work developing his own graphic design company If Man Is Five (IFMANISFIVE.com - it's worth a look!). We asked him to create a new work shirt for us - and thought, "what the heck! let's have him make something fun too!" And he did. And it's beyond awesome!!

We have now officially created our farm tagline: "Know It, Grow It, Love It". 

And we are pleased to present to you, our first t-shirts! A way to show off your love for backyard chickens, urban farming, and local food, or to just flaunt your good green side and your urban farming dream (the t-shirt is green - see what I did there? lol). 

Without further ado...

Dare 2 Dream Farms Know It, Grow It, Love It T-shirt
Know It, Grow It, Love It T-Shirt

Dare 2 Dream Farms "Change" T-shirt
Dare 2 Dream Farms "Change" Shirt - Front

Dare 2 Dream Farms "Change" T-shirt
Dare 2 Dream Farms "Change" Shirt - Back

Let us know what you think! We will be Giving Away a free shirts for every 25 comments on our blog. To Enter To Win:

1: Like our Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/Dare2DreamFarms
2: Comment on this blog post.

Giveaway Ends 3/21/13 Eligible entries chosen at random and will be notified via email, if provided, or on our 3/21/13 blog posting. Winners will have until 4/1/13 to claim giveaway. 



Winners will be notified at random

Monday, March 4, 2013

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.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

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.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

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.