LAM Family Farm

Happy Chickens, Fresh Eggs!

What is a Chicken Tractor?

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Here at LAM Family Farms we raise our chickens in Chicken Tractors.  Just what is a Chicken Tractor?  A Chicken Tractor is  movable chicken housing were the chickens have access to the grass.   I think the word “Tractor” is what throws people off.  More on that in a minute.  The great thing about chicken tractors is that they are so easy to construct and cheap.  I make my chicken tractors out of two cattle panels bent over and attached to a frame built out of 2 X 4’s.  This frame is then surrounded in Chicken wire.  A door is fashioned.  A tarp is attached with zip-ties.  And boom,  Chicken Tractor. 

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The chicken tractors provide security and protection from predation.  Meanwhile the chickens are on grass.  They can eat bugs and grass.  They can scratch.  They dig shallow holes so they can dusty themselves.  Their excrement is fertilizer. All of the scratching and digging and fertilizer is great for my soil.  This is the “tractor” part.  Depending on how long I leave the chicken tractor in one place is how bare the soil can get.  For example, If I leave it in one place for a week or longer I can almost get rid of all vegetation, I call this the scorched earth policy. The soil will be aerated and fertilized.  The shallow holes will hold water.  I use this in order to start my home gardens. Normally I will move the chicken tractors twice a day or every couple of days. 

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Succession of movement

The above picture really shows the affects a Chicken Tractor can have on the soil. At the very top you see dense, darker colored grass.  With each movement there is a different level of new grass growth. 

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Minimal work, No-Till chicken tractor Garden

The picture above is an impromptu garden.  I had a bunch of seeds left over from previous years.  I mixed them up and spread them over this area that I had just moved the chicken tractor from.  I spread the seeds out just before a rain.  You can see above that I had pretty good results.
Chicken tractors are a very handy way to manage chickens. Cheap and easy.  Try it.  If you have any questions contact me. I will help you if I can.

Is This Work?

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Collecting eggs at our house is a big event for us.  We are collecting ten to twelve eggs a day.  For me, a good day is getting a dozen eggs in one day.   I know, overall a dozen eggs does not seem like a lot.  But it is a small accomplishment for us.  We are starting a very scalable, side egg business.  We are raising grass fed, all natural chickens.  We feed them organic feed as a supplement.  Our chickens are good for you.  They are great for our soil.
Happy Chickens, Fresh eggs!

Selling Eggs

So we have built up eggs enough to begin to sell some.  The eggs will be offered for $5.00 a dozen.  Why so expensive you ask.  Here is why.  Are chickens are happy chickens.  Now when I say that I mean compared to chickens that are grown in CAFOS(Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation), my chickens are very happy.  They are protected by chicken tractors.  They are on grass.  Moved every couple of days.  They can eat grass and bugs and they do.  They can dust themselves in the dirt and they do.  They eat very expensive organic food from Tractor Supply.  Taking care of these chickens is hard work.  Moving the chicken tractors is no easy task. The supplemental Organic food we feed them is expensive.   We want to put out a very high-quality chicken egg.  I do not use any herbicides or pesticides in the chickens area.  The only place I use pesticides is around our house because of the dog-gone fire ants.

Sure you can probably buy cheaper eggs at Wal-Mart.  But let me tell you about big agriculture eggs.  Those poor chickens are kept in tiny wire cages. They cannot even move around. The chickens never ever see sunlight.  They never step their feet on grass or anything besides the wire cages.  They are kept awake by constant lighting.  They are seen as egg producing machines.

Our chickens are happy.  We can even tell their different personalities.

The money for these eggs will go to Landrie and McKaylee.  80% into the Bank and 20% they can keep.  I am trying to teach them the value of work, savings and selling.  If you can sell, you will always have a job.

My Polish Chickens

My family and I were walking around the county fair last Oct.  We made our way over to the chickens and what did we see?  Some of the prettiest chickens I have ever seen.  This breed we learned is called Polish.

Polish chickens originated in Europe.  There is much debate over where exactly.  Poland?  or Netherlands.  I do not really care.  I am writing this article to tell you about my experiences with the polish.

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Our Silver-Laced Polish

We have two polish chickens.  A Silver-Laced and a White Crested Rooster.  My wife and kids have given this one several names.  I am not really into naming farm animals.  I do not want a Cecil the Lion uproar when it is this chickens time to go.

The major thing I have noticed is that the beautiful crown of feathers on her head really obscures her vision.  When I let the chickens out of they’re chicken tractors, I have noticed that she often appears lost.  She is off by herself.  Sometimes she lets out a distress cluck.  Sometimes she gets spooked real easy.  However most of the time you can sneak up right behind her.

IMG_20150811_192636650As you can see I am within just a few feet of this chicken.  She has no idea I am behind her.  Polish Chickens are definitely not survival chickens.  This is particularly bad on this little farm as we do not have fencing up around the property to keep out predators.  as a result over the years we have had a lot of chickens killed by foxes and neighbor’s dogs.  When I do let them out of there chicken tractors I have to stand guard over them….like a Shepard.  A Chicken Shepard?

This is the only chicken we have that lays a white egg.  The eggs seem really white.  I think our customers prefer brown eggs.

We have enjoyed raising this polish from a chick to the white egg layer she has become.

Thoughts from the farm

After having raised chickens for a number of years I have to say the chickens that we have now are by far the easiest to contain.  I usually let the chickens out of their chicken tractors in the evening.  So when it starts to get dark they go back inside themselves.  This save me time and energy.  I have to stay out with them.  We do not have a fence around the property yet.  So I have to guard them.  The chickens that I have now are so nice.  I can herd them toward their chicken tractor and they will go on in.  They are so nice and cooperative.  I have started letting them out more frequently because of this odd behavior. 
We are still getting small eggs.  I am puzzled by these small eggs.  I had dreams of starting an egg empire.  Not with these chics!

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I am looking into a portable electric chicken fencing. I need these chickens to be able to process a larger area at a time.  Chickens are efficient workers.  They constantly scratch the ground foraging for food.  What they basically do is a shallow till.  They eat bugs.  I wish they would eat these fire ants. 
These chickens eat the vegetation.  The longer I leave them in one place the more they do.  When I want to plant something I practice the “scorched earth” policy.  I leave them in the same place for a week or longer.  They till, fertilize and eat all the vegetation.  I have a square of bare soil. 
I really like this group I have now.

LAM Family Farms mini-eggs?

As I write this(type it) I am sitting here shaking my head and laughing.  So our new chickens, our future egg factories, recently started laying eggs.  Not all are laying.  But we have a strange and unique problem.  The eggs are very small!  In years of keeping chickens I have never seen such small eggs. 

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Here is a picture of an Americauna chicken egg in the middle and two mini-eggs on each side.  It is very strange.  I hope these first two eggs are anomalies.
We’ll see.

Recent fishing trip

The word family is in our name.  LAM Family Farms.  With our busy schedules it is very special when we get to spent time together.
We recently took a quick trip to the pond.  Scout was able to pick up about four really good sized bream.  We did throw them back as I did not feel like cleaning fish that day. 

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This is Scout with a good eatin size bream.  I am really proud of her. She showed good focus while fishing. 
I always encourage families to get out and go fishing together.  Fishing makes memories and can provide food. 

We can no longer say we are soy free.

The price of the countryside feed we were using is just to much. We have switched over to Organic chicken feed from Tractor Supply. We really wanted to go soy free. At these prices we cannot support it. The prices of the organic chicken feed at tractor supply are very high compared to the regular feed. 
Organic: $22.95
Regular: $12.95
I guess I really cannot use the name
organic either as the govt has many regulated the word. 
We need to come up with a better description for our eggs.

So they are grass fed, supplemented with organic chicken feed. Could that work?

The Rhode Island Red

So over the last few years the Rhode Island Red has quickly became our favorite chicken breed.  We have had many different breeds including White Plymouth rocks, Light Brahmas, New Hampshire red, Americanas. and an assortment of chickens that we did not know the breed. We Really liked the Light Brahma.  This is a big strong chicken.  It grows feathers down its legs.  It is really pretty.  We have Americanas currently.  The girls really enjoy the Easter egg color eggs they lay.

So with our small, tiny little micro-business of selling eggs I have decided on two different breeds.  The Rhode Island Red and the Barred Plymouth Rocks.  This article is on the Rhode Island Red.

In my opinion the Rhode Island Red is one of the best things to come out of the northeastern United States.  It was bred in Rhode Island in the mid 1800’s as a Dual Purpose chicken.  Meaning it was raised to provide both meat and eggs to a family.  To me the Rhode Island Red is a good-sized bird.  It is not as large as a Light Brahma(so naturally does not consume as much feed) and not bantam sized although there is a bantam Rhode Island Red Breed.  We will focus on the standard breed.image

Here are some quick facts:

Rhode Island Red Chicken Info

  • Adult Weight – Male: 8 pounds ; Female: 5.5-6.5 pounds
  • Color – Black and Dark Red (may have some white tipped feathers prior to full maturity is reached), Yellow Skin, Red or Rose colored Crests
  • Purpose – Dual Purpose: egg laying and meat production
  • Egg Color – Brown
  • Egg Production – Prolific: 200 – 280 eggs per year (varies depending on conditions)
  • Country of Origin –United States (Rhode Island)
  • Broodiness – Sometimes Broody
  • Comb – Single

I like this breed because it is really reliable for laying eggs.  200-280 eggs per year is a good amount of eggs.  I also like them because I think they are pretty.  The rusty red color of their feathers really shines in the sunlight.  I had some White Plymouth Rocks before.  They reminded me to much of the chickens that are raised in chicken house CAFOs(concentrated animal feeding operations).

At LAM Family Farms our chickens are raised in chicken tractors.  Where they can scratch in the dirt, chase and eat bugs and really just behave like a chicken.  We are not free range as of yet.  The chicken tractors are to protect the birds from predation.  Just last year we had 12 chickens killed over a three week period.  I let them roam about on the property, free ranging and neighbor’s dogs attacked them. I’m sure dome were killed by foxes or coyotes as well.
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I really like the looks of this bird to.  The iridescence of the feathers combined with the subtle rust color makes for a pretty yard-bird.  The gold colored eyes are almost regal.

So to wrap this up i will say that the RIRs are a good hardy, fairly tame chicken that is fairly reliable at laying eggs.  I still get probably an egg every other day from this three-year old hen.  So decide on a breed or just take what someone will give you and get started raising chickens.

Mail-Order Chickens?

So I get asked often, “You can send chickens through the mail?”. Yes you can. I am surprised that others are surprised by this. City people are the most shocked, bless them.  We have ordered chicks several times over the years. “Why order online?” ” Why not just go to tractor supply or a local place to get your chickens?” Well I have done both. We have bought and sold chickens through craigslist.com. We have bought them from Tractor supply and other locally owned feed stores. The main reason I buy online is that I can get exactly what I want. I can get the exact breed that I want. The local stores sell the most popular breeds like Rhode Island reds, silkies, breeds like that. I wanted to raise some Polish chickens. Our tiny little micro-business is egg oriented but we saw these polish chickens at the county fair one year and I wanted at least one rooster. They are so beautiful.
So our latest chickens-by-mail order consisted of 5 Rhode Island Red hens, 5 Barred Plymouth Rock hens, and 5 polish straight-runs (which means prolly all roosters!) The minimum order is 15 chickens. It has to be 15 order minimum so that their body heat will help keep them warm during the transport.
So the first step to ordering online is to find a website. I have ordered from www.efowl.com and www.cacklehatchery.com I have not had any problems from either site.  Customer service for both has been excellent.     So as with any other online retail, you pick out what you want then buy it.  For me it actually took over a month to ship.  I ordered ten hens and a straight run of three different breeds.  They are generally shipped the day they hatch so i am guessing it takes some planning on there part.

The company will give you an estimated shipping date.  My shipping date was set back another week.  It is no problem for me as I am ready for them.

I did recieve an email when they finally did ship them out.  I immediately called my post office.  I told them I have chics coming and gave them my phone number.  Two days later I got a phone call at 0830!  My chicks were in!

I could hear the babies chirping or cheeping as soon as I walked into our post office.  Very fun.

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When they arrive it is important that you warm them.  I am using this warming element.  It is meant for reptiles but does a good job warming while allowing the chicks to sleep at night.    You should give them warm water to drink as well as plenty of food.  You actually have to put their little beaks in the water so they know its there.  They seemed to figure the feed out on their own.

So check out some websites.  Find the exact chicken breeds that you want and click away.  Raising chickens is very rewarding and really fun.

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