A few months ago, Will and I revisited with friends and farmers Megan and Jeremy, just a couple hours up the coast from us in the small town of Lompoc, California. Tucked in a canyon north of Santa Barbara, on 40 acres of old-growth forest, they run a humane poultry farm, organic farm stand, and local CSA operation called Dare 2 Dream Farms.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while may remember this post from nearly six years ago, when I brought home my original flock of three feisty ladies.
After the devastating loss of our Barred Rock this past spring, we knew we needed to bring home some new companions for Iman, our Golden Laced Cochin (and the only remaining hen from that first flock). And we knew there was no other place we’d rather turn to than Dare 2 Dream for adding to our feathered family.
Plus, we hadn’t seen Megan and Jeremy since that initial visit and were excited to see how they — and the farm — had grown!
Now married with an adorable toddler and a beautiful new baby, Megan and Jeremy have expanded from a fledgling family operation to a full house on the farm that includes full-time employees as well as WWOOF volunteers. Everyone is involved with various projects on the farm, from hatching new chicks and designing and building chicken coops (which they sell on their site), to planting the vegetable gardens and preparing menus for farm-to-table dinner parties.
I found this lovely video on their site and I think it tells their story much better than I can. (If you’re reading this post in a newsreader, click here to view the video.)
Even with all the extra hands and new outbuildings around the farm, Dare 2 Dream still felt like the same place we remembered: warm, homey, peaceful, and yes, full of happy, peppy chickens!
Will and I had originally decided that we’d bring home two new pullets, but once we got there, I fell in love all over again and changed my mind to three! We followed Jeremy into the hen house where hundreds of chickens of all sizes, colors, and breeds were milling about. We didn’t have any particular breeds in mind, just that we wanted healthy, friendly, and docile chickens that would get along with Iman.
After several minutes of us pointing out this bird and that bird, Jeremy scooped up three pullets that seemed right for us. How he could tell that one was more laid-back than the other was beyond me — it was a mad house every time he went for one! Chickens running and wings flapping everywhere.
The girls we chose were all around 15 weeks old, and just as we did before with our first flock, we nestled the new chickens into a cardboard box lined with pine shavings for the drive home. (That box was also their first few nights’ accommodations while we prepped the new temporary coop — I’ll cover those details in my next post.)
Without further adieu, meet our new starlets!
Harlow is a Silver Laced Wyandotte. We thought she’d be the alpha in this group, as she was the spunkiest and most stubborn. She often tried to fly away when it was time to tuck into the coop the first couple weeks (hmm, kind of reminds me of my toddler’s resistance to bedtime right now), but she’s really mellowed out in the last month and is sweet as can be.
I love Harlow’s coloring, which is so striking I can spot her from across the yard. Silver Laced Wyandottes are the original variety of the Wyandotte breed, which was developed in the 1870s. They grow to become large, productive birds, so it’s no wonder that Harlow was the second hen to start laying.
She gives us smooth, small brown eggs several times a week, but now I’m wondering if she and Ginger are sharing the same “nest” in the corner of the run. I put that in quotes because neither are using the actual nest box in the coop, and I’ve seen them both sitting in a cozy little makeshift nest in the sand, where eggs would mysteriously appear later in the day.
Ginger is our Golden Sex Link. Sex Links are cross-breeds of two heritage purebred chickens, and are named for the ability to differentiate their sex at hatching (by color). Ginger is the most affectionate and social of the three, having warmed up to us as soon as we brought her home. She’s gentle and easy to handle, but I don’t get the feeling that she’s the lowest in the pecking order.
In fact, I haven’t quite figured out their pecking order yet. It seems like Harlow and Ginger are the two peas in a pod, and Greta and Iman are in charge as they’re slightly larger in size. (Iman, by default, is head hen because she’s also the oldest).
Ginger should be laying by now, but since I haven’t caught her in the act yet, I’m not sure if some of the brown eggs I’ve found in the chicken run are hers. There’s also the possibility of a secret nest somewhere in the lower yard where they roam. (Unfortunately, this lower yard is also the weediest and wildest part of the property, so finding anything down there is a challenge until our end-of-season clean-up.)
We recently discovered a secret nest overflowing with a clutch of Greta eggs, seven in all! And so the hunt continues for stray eggs.
Last but not least, we decided to get another Easter Egger and are so happy we did. (Our first one passed away a few years ago.)
Greta (or as Will likes to call her, Garbo) is a couple weeks older than the other girls, so she was the first to start laying and her eggs are a beautiful pastel blue. She’s a prolific layer, giving us four to six eggs per week, and right now they’re so cute and petite that they really do look like Easter eggs!
Of all the chickens, she seems to be the most curious and fearless. She’s constantly exploring new territory, pecking and scratching at the ground, and keeping the weed population under control. (Seriously, this girl can eat! Must be all those eggs she’s laying…)
The other chickens love to follow her lead because they know she’ll sniff out the good stuff in the yard, from the best patch of dandelion and wood sorrel to the hidden pile of decaying bark with all kinds of bugs and grubs squirming underneath. Greta is a prime example of why chickens are so great to have in a garden!
The new flock has been settling in well these last four months, and most importantly, they’ve figured out their place with Iman, who often watches over them as they roam, almost like a mother hen with her babies. She’s a gentle and efficient head hen, and we’re so happy for her to have a tribe again.
(By the way, so many of you have asked about Iman since the attack, and I thank you for thinking of us. She didn’t lay for two months, but has now recovered 100 percent. Her comb has fully healed and she started laying her lovely, speckled, pink-tinged eggs again. Such a brave and resilient little lady!)