So the other thing I never thought I’d ever say, besides “I have a chicken coop in my backyard,” is… I have backyard chickens! But that kinda goes without saying, yea?
When our coop was underway and I started looking into chickens, I knew that I wanted them to come from a local humane farm that hatched many different breeds to choose from. The idea of ordering chicks through the mail and having them shipped across state lines just seemed silly to me.
I also wanted pullets — young chickens that are fully feathered and can live outside, but are not yet mature enough to lay eggs. Young chickens would mean more bonding time in their developing months, and more bonding time would nurture a flock of loyal and laidback ladies.
With all that in mind, I searched through countless sites and finally found a wonderful small farm up the coast whose values echoed mine.
Two weeks ago, Will and I made the beautiful three-hour drive up Highway 1 to Dare 2 Dream Farms, a truly free-range chicken farm just outside the small agricultural community of Lompoc. Tucked into the Santa Ynez River Valley, the sustainable, family-owned and operated farm sits on 40 acres of mostly undeveloped land dotted with old-growth oaks and eucalyptus.
All this open land means herds of happy hens free-ranging around the farm all day, laying farm-fresh eggs of all colors and sizes that supply the local CSA and natural markets. Alongside the hens are roosters, quail, duck duck goose, the farm’s three dogs (Conner, Walker and George) and Bandit the cat, all of whom share this idyllic life with Megan and Jeremy, the duo behind Dare 2 Dream.
We brought our pugs on this little road trip with us that day, so they could help choose their new sisters. Our firstborn pug took to the resident chickens immediately, skipping through the grass and playing with them as if she’d lived on a farm all her life. Our younger pug didn’t mind them, but had a bit of apprehension as some of these birds were bigger than she was!
We were greeted by Megan, a former city girl who moved to the countryside with her fiancé Jeremy in 2009. After raising a small flock of 12 hens and falling in love with them, they brought home 40 more and Dare 2 Dream was born.
In that short amount of time, the farm’s modest operations have grown to include a 4,000-square-foot vegetable garden next to the house, several quirky coops scattered around the property, and acres of pasture where chickens roam and graze freely.
Megan and Jeremy run the whole show themselves, from managing the farm to making deliveries to marketing their business. It’s truly a family-run farm in every way.
Inside a classic Americana barn filled with modern and vintage farm relics — straight out of American Pickers — weeks-old pullets purred and cooed in a pen. Did you know that pullets actually purr and coo? They sound like a flight of doves — so pleasant and peaceful.
Everywhere we looked, pullets perched atop roosts and huddled around feeders. I had never seen so many spring chickens before in my life! Megan helped us choose the best lookin’ of the bunch (and the most even-tempered) from what seemed like hundreds of hens that all looked and purred alike.
The pugs were sitting side by side, watching us and waiting impatiently as we rounded up our girls.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that a pair of Barred Rocks were standing side by side in front of the pugs, watching them with interest. While the other pullets scurried away when the pugs came ’round, these two confidently held their ground. One especially curious pullet even inched her way closer to the pugs, unfazed by their hyperactive panting. At that moment, we knew she had chosen them!
We walked out of the barn with three sexy new additions to our family — Kimora, Iman, and Gisele — a Barred Rock, Golden Laced Cochin, and Easter Egger, respectively. They were all 14 weeks old and beautifully feathered.
These supermodels are quite the sassy trio and one even welcomed me with my first real chicken experience… right down the side of my shirt! (Luckily, I’d been out surfing that morning and had an extra shirt in the car… otherwise I think Will would’ve made me compost my shirt right then and there!)
We tucked the girls into a cardboard box for the journey home, right in between my surf bin and Will’s surf blanket in the back of the car, where they nestled in quietly.
Happy and healthy at 16 weeks old now, Kimora, Iman, and Gisele have settled nicely into their new home. Within two days they learned to hop up the ladder to roost in their coop at sunset, and let themselves out into the run at sunrise. They make a beeline for the door when they see me coming, eager for a treat of organic scratch or dried mealworms, or — if I’ve been digging in the garden — a tasty handful of grubs or grasshoppers.
I’ve started to let the girls free-range for the last hour before dusk, and they never stray far. I love watching their playful antics and their abundant personalities emerge! Such highly underrated animals they are.
I still can’t believe I have chickens in my backyard. And you can have some too.
Dare 2 Dream Farms supplies chickens, coops, poultry supplies, and a friendly sounding board for sub/urban people interested in raising their own backyard flocks. They also hand deliver throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, the Central Coast, and the Bay Area — but if you can swing a visit to the farm, it’s very much worth the drive!
Disclosure: Dare 2 Dream Farms kindly provided the chickens mentioned in this post. All opinions expressed are my own and were not influenced by any form of compensation.