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Join Nicole and Sara from Sara’s Pick of the Coop as they talk about her commercial pasture raised egg operation, as well as the differences between the many egg labels.
What You’ll Learn
- Raising free range pastured chickens
- What is the Fair Farm?
- Protecting chickens from predators
- How to sell your eggs to a grocery store
- How to determine the age of eggs
- What is the difference between free range, pastured and cage free eggs?
- What chickens we have at Heritage Acres
Our guest today is Sara, owner and operator of Sara’s Pick of the Coop pasture raised eggs. A Colorado native, Sara is a lady entrepreneur and raises approximately 3000 laying hens in Northern Colorado. Her birds are humanely raised and are able to freely roam many acres of land. Sara is an advocate for humane poultry and has knowledge of the fallacies behind common egg labels.
Resources & Links Mentioned
- [email protected]
- Sara’s Pick of the Coop Website
- Eerie and Beery Podcast
- Colorado Fair Farm
- Animal Welfare Approved
- Chicken Agility Videos
- Email us! [email protected]
*Denotes affiliate links
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Announcer: Welcome to the Backyard Bounty podcast, from heritageacresmarket.com, where we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now here's your host, Nicole.
Nicole: Good morning everybody. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. Today I'm joined by Sara, with Sara's Pick of the Coop, and today she's here to talk about her farming operation. And I'm really excited to explore kind of a different realm of poultry farming. So Sara, thank you so much for joining me today.
Sara: Yeah, no worries. I'm excited.
Nicole: So can you kind of give us a little bit of background about you and your farm?
Sara: Yeah, so my family's not really farmers, but we like to hunt and fish. And one day my dad was hunting when I was six and he comes back and he has a chicken and we're like, "Okay dad, where did you get it?" He was like, "Well, someone dumped her in the woods. I found her. So if you want her, we'll set up a home." So that was Henny Penny and I started with her. And then I just had her for several years and we moved to a farm, but we leased all the land. But there's this old chicken coop on it and one of his friends, when my parents got divorced, saw that I was kind of bored and gave me some bantam chickens. So I had those for a good long time.
Sara: And then in FFA I needed some kind of project and I was like, "Well, there's this chicken coop." By then the bantams had all passed away I think. But I had this chicken coop. So for FFA I went ahead and started Sara's Pick of the Coop, and I started there with 500 hens by the end of high school. So I went to college, did that whole deal. My cousin took over my original chickens and then I graduated college. I wanted to be a zookeeper. I went and worked at the Houston Zoo as an intern for a while and then realized I'm not a city girl and zoos are in cities mostly. So I started my farm here in Berthoud.
Nicole: Awesome. That's kind of a unique start. I mean, I've been hunting lots of times and I can't say I've come back with a chicken.
Sara: That was probably the most random thing I was like, "Seriously dad, okay."
Nicole: Obviously. What kind of chicken was it? I just have to ask.
Sara: I'm pretty sure she was a Rhode Island red. But I don't know if I trust five year old me to remember, but she was red.
Nicole: We'll go with it.
Nicole: So then in high school obviously you kind of jumped in both feet and then after your hiatus you're back into it again. And how many chickens do you have now?
Sara: So right now I have ... It's one of those things where I don't really know.
Nicole: Yeah, I feel you.
Sara: But there's close to 3000, after getting rid of the older ladies, I give them away to people for their backyard and then I just got 900 babies. So I don't really count the babies yet because they're not real chickens. And then I manage all the chickens for Fair Farm and he has, math, 3000, 3,200-ish chickens. So I kind of count them as my flock also because I take care of them.
Nicole: Sure. So you're kind of all on the whole chicken thing?
Sara: Yeah, it's all chickens all the time.
Nicole: And what do you raise them mostly for?
Sara: Mostly for eggs. I do in the summer raise some meat chickens, but there's no one around that processes meat chickens. Since I sell my eggs in grocery stores, I can't sell the meat in grocery stores since there's not a USDA certified processor. So I just sell them direct to friends and family.
Nicole: I don't do anything like commercially, so that's interesting.
Sara: Yeah, you have to ... you can process, and here's a fun fact about Colorado. In Colorado, you can process a thousand meat chickens and sell them directly, or any chickens and sell them directly without a license. But after you get over a thousand you have to have license. But if you want to sell in a grocery store, you have to process them in a USDA certified facility.
Nicole: Sure. How interesting. I've noticed there's definitely a shortage of poultry processing facilities. I know that that's a common thing that I see here in Colorado. Somebody needs to open one.
Sara: Yeah, not me. Sorry.
Nicole: What kind of chickens do you raise then for the eggs?
Sara: Do you know Dr. Whiting out of Delta, the hatchery? Tom Whiting.
Nicole: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Sara: I get most of my chickens from him and he knows that I love chickens. So he does this thing where he's like, "Sara, I have 400 extra blanks. Do you want them?" And now I end up with them. So mostly my production flock is Leghorns of all the colors and then Red Sex Links and while some are mixes and then Whiting True Blues and True Greens. But then again the sprinkling of every kind of thing. There's some like Polish and Salmon Faverolles and all the things.
Nicole: Oh, how fun. So you don't just sell like your run of the mill white eggs to the store, you kind of sell the variety mix.
Sara: Yeah, I call them rainbow dozens.
Nicole: Oh, how fun.
Sara: It's my special term.
Nicole: Yeah. As a home, just doing the chickens from home, I can't stand just a dozen white eggs in the store that just drives me nuts.
Sara: But you know what's silly is like I have, so I had a goof up last summer and I ended up, instead of buying 400 Leghorns, I tried to buy directly from Lohmann, and I ordered with the other farm, Fair Farm to try to just get some different chickens to see how they did. But I put it in an order for 400 and I ended up with 900 because he read my thing wrong. So I ended up with a lot of extra white eggs and when I put in all white eggs, people get turned off.
Nicole: Oh no.
Sara: They're like, "This is a grocery store egg." I'm like, "Well, I do sell at the grocery store, but they're still pastured and all the things, they just happen to lay white eggs."
Nicole: It's funny how people put so much they think that the color of the egg means something and it's really just-
Sara: It drives me up a wall. Brown eggs are better for you, you should only sell brown eggs, no people.
Nicole: Right. So obviously you have more chickens than most people. So what kind of facility do you have them in?
Sara: I have two properties right now. I have one that's up by Carter Lake in Berthoud, so let's talk about that one first. I wanted to get back into chicken farming, but I was a barista at the time and very poor. So I built my coops out of pallets, but they are about 16 feet by 30 feet and there's two of those big giant ones. And then I have some brooders. But I built them out of pallets and then she did the inside with plywood and then built the nest boxes out of wood on that farm. And then they have 45 acres that they can run around on.
Sara: And then the other farm, and it's owned by Fair Farm. But I get to keep some chickens there as a trade for managing his chickens and teaching him about chicken farming. So those coops, I got to just go insane and go to the trailer company in Denver and tell them that this is what I want, make it, and they did. And so they're 11 by 40 almost. And they're totally mobile and they have that, it's called kennel flooring. It's like plastic that has holes in it, so that poop falls through. And those you can move around with a tractor and we have 60 acres there and that's irrigated and awesome.
Nicole: So that's kind of close to the size of like a semi-trailer, right?
Sara: Yeah, a little bit shorter, but basically. And that's moving forward, I need to figure out how to, like the county has a lot of open space that you can rent for pasture and I'm trying to convince them that I should be able to do chicken open space, and semi-trailers are kind of in the back of my mind because they're easy to move.
Nicole: Yeah. I didn't know that you could rent from the city too, that's neat.
Sara: Yeah, it's Boulder County, I don't even know how many acres, but it's an insane amount. And so yeah, you can lease it and grow things and raise animals. So they're just kind of, nobody has done pastured poultry really. So it's kind of a new thing and trying to convince them it's hard.
Nicole: Well, if you're the first, then that means that you could be the model. So you'd be like, this is why we should do it. And then it'd be a good learning experience.
Sara: We've been sued a couple of times actually at Fair Farm from our neighbors because they saw when we put in our application, they're like, "Oh my gosh, they're going to have chickens. It's going to be a chicken farm. It's going to be so awful." And since no one's done pastured poultry, the county was kind of on their side and we're just working our way through to kind of help pave that way.
Nicole: I wouldn't think that that would be an issue, but-
Sara: People are really, yeah.
Nicole: Well, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt sometimes.
Sara: Well, so yeah, these people I should say are very set in their ways. They want to live in the country, but they don't want to live near animals.
Nicole: Fair enough. So with your birds, do you just kind of let them free range?
Sara: Yes. So at the Carter Lake location we'll call it, I have automatic doors actually because I live in Loveland, so I have to commute to both farms every day. But I have these automatic doors that I love because they're on a photo sensor. So they basically open like this time of year around 6:00 in the morning and then they close when it's dark, so around 9:00. But then the cool thing about them is they'll open again for 10 minutes and then they close so anybody that got left out has a chance to get inside. I know, I like it, but that way I can be like a normal person and not have to be there the whole day.
Nicole: Yeah, trying to herd chickens is great fun. I wouldn't want to do that every day.
Sara: No. So Whiting got rid of his breeders last year and I was all excited because $4 for a 10 month old hen is a very wild.
Nicole: Oh wow.
Sara: So instead of them going into the meat market, I was like, "Yes, please. I will take them." And they're laying eggs, they'll learn how to be chickens because they are a caged at his place. So I was like, "That'll be a really good opportunity for them, good opportunity for me." And then I didn't sleep for a couple months because they just didn't understand that they should go inside. They would all just lay down wherever they were. They would go out and be normal chickens and then at night they just would lay down.
Nicole: Oh no.
Sara: They have to go find them and carry them all in, and I got like a thousand of them.
Nicole: Oh my gosh. That's like Easter egg hunting to the extreme.
Sara: Well, yeah, they would go in and lay their eggs where they were supposed to but then they would just like sleep outside, so it was like Easter chicken hunting. I ended up putting like a fan, a big, big, big fan by the door to push them inside because some were going inside and just falling asleep right inside the door. They wouldn't even like go roost, they would just be like, oh, I'm in, then sleep. Then nobody else can get in. So I seriously had to just put a giant fan and push it in.
Nicole: Oh my gosh. How funny.
Sara: They've learned a couple months, but now they're good.
Nicole: When you free range the birds, do you have any sort of like a predator control program or like dogs or anything?
Sara: The Carter Lake location is actually on alpaca farm. They have 180 alpacas and they have a guard dog who's pretty awesome, but he doesn't go in with the chickens. So mostly it's just me. I have game cameras that I keep up there so I could make sure I see if there's like a pattern. I do lose the occasional one to a hawk and coyotes have been an issue there.
Sara: And then the other farm, we're working on getting a llama, but trying to find a llama is difficult. It doesn't seem like it should be difficult, but everyone has like, "Oh yeah, I've got a llama." "Well, how old is it?" "Oh, it's only 18." They only live to 20, so I don't really want an 18 year old llama. So that one, it's fair from location is only, we've only had chickens there for I think a year next week. So we're still kind of starting up.
Sara: We're searching for better ways to control predators. But we did have a group of mangy coyotes and my mom does a nuisance wildlife relocation and she takes care of them. And so we had to shoot a bunch because they were so mangy and so sick. They would just, you'd be standing, like one day I was cleaning my truck and I'm in the middle of the field because I was like, "Okay, got to do this. So I'll just do it right here in the middle field. It'll be good." And that's what happened. And my dogs are there with me, I've got two Australian Shepherds.
Sara: And next thing I know I look up and there's a dead chicken. And I was like, "What the heck?" And I go over and there's 20 something dead chickens. The coyote had run behind me, I didn't even see it and just killed for fun. It was, oh my gosh. So they're gone now, we have a healthy population. You see them occasionally, but now they all have a good fur and they're doing normal things like coming at night. And that's the thing with the, we shut the chickens in tight at night, we don't have any losses. But when you have a starving sick coyote, that was a problem.
Nicole: Yeah, I know around here, we're suburban here, but we've had issues with manged coyotes and some of those ones they are so bad, they just look hairless. And I feel so awful for them. I don't really love coyotes because they eat my chickens. But I sure feel bad for those ones that are all made.
Sara: I always try to have like, you respect me, I respect you. If I'm there, if someone's there with chickens all the time or the dogs are there. So if they're coming while the dogs were there, like something's super wrong with them and they had no first, some of them had no teeth left. I don't know what that was about, but it was just really not great.
Nicole: Oh, it's sad.
Sara: Like I said, we've got it managed and hopefully we're good to go again.
Nicole: Out of all of the different varieties of birds that you've had, I know you kind of just get whatever, but do you have a favorite or ones that you prefer over the others?
Sara: For laying or for personality?
Nicole: Both. We can talk about both.
Sara: Yeah. So for laying, I really love my production reds and my Leghorns. But for personality Buff Orpingtons are probably my favorite.
Nicole: Yeah, they tend to be pretty friendly. Do you have issues with your buffs getting broody?
Sara: Actually no. Well, a couple, but right now my main group of birdies are actually the Whiting True Blues who haven't done this to me before. And I don't know why the new group is doing it, but they're just like in the nest all the time fighting me and being terrible. Still love them, but yeah.
Nicole: Yeah. So when you sell eggs to a store or outside of just a commercial setting I should say, what are some of the considerations that you have to take to have commercial grade eggs?
Sara: I have to have like a size, I do a size the minimum, so I have jumbo cartons, which most my eggs are jumbo, but because the occasional large one goes in, I just label them all large because otherwise I'd be weighing and counting tons of eggs all the time. They have to be washed and I have an egg washing machine which is actually on my Facebook. You should check that out, it's really cool. It's like a conveyor belt that goes through brushes and fans and that has been a giant improvement in my life because before November I was washing all these eggs at my house in my kitchen sink.
Nicole: Oh my gosh.
Sara: My boyfriend was not impressed. But on Tuesdays he hangs out with his friends, so after work he doesn't come home till late. So Tuesdays was my egg washing day and the whole house would transform into like this just egg packing, washing and then be clean and good to go by the time he got home. I don't have to do that anymore. Anyway, so they have to be washed, graded, the egg washer and the front of it where the eggs roll in, it's hard to explain.
Sara: But the eggs roll in and there's a light that goes up through them so you can grade them right there and check for any cracks, weird air cells and then the size of the air cell to get that grade. And then like I said, I like to do the rainbow dozens. My point behind that is to remind people that they're animals. I can't turn on a machine and say, "Oh, I want large today. I want them all to be exactly the same." They're all different and I'm cool with that.
Nicole: What about like storage or actual packing? I mean, I know you said like jumbo eggs, but what, like certifications or stuff, other than volume, what's the difference between like I took a dozen eggs, thought they would buy it, but like a dozen eggs to the store and say, here, buy my eggs to sell to people versus like your eggs.
Sara: I'm insured with liability insurance in case anyone gets sick, that's a requirement. And then I have a state of Colorado egg dealers license. I'm not to the point of needing a USDA license, but if all 3000 of my chickens were laying all the time, then I would need one. But state of Colorado egg dealer license and then you have to put certain things on the carton like your name, your address, the phone number. Then there's like the safe handling instructions that say, this is not from a government approved source, which is another really strange thing that turns customers off. But it's because I'm a state approved, not USTA approved. And then the date they were packed or laid or the sell by date. I use the packed on date.
Nicole: You mentioned earlier that your machine had the light so you could grade eggs. What is the different grading? What does that mean?
Sara: If you crack an egg open and you look on the fat end, you'll see that the membrane has left a gap between the membrane and the shell, there's an airspace. That's the air cell. So this size of that determines the grade and there's different things that change the size of it. But really it's mostly the age of the egg. And that's why, fun fact if you guys don't know, that if you put an egg and water, put it in a glass of water. If it's fresh, it'll lay flat and then as it ages it'll start to tip up. And then when it's really old it floats. So you're looking at the size of that air cell.
Sara: Mine are all grade AA because I pack them within three days max of them being laid. And then you were asking about storage. So on the Carter Lake farm, I have a cool bot machine. It's just I have a storage room that I insulated very well and then I put a air conditioner in it. And then there's this little machine here, a little computer that you hook on your air conditioner that tells it to run more than it normally would. So it keeps it at 35 degrees. And then at the Fair Farm we have a delivery van, which I get to use because I have chicken knowledge. Like I said, the best trade ever. But that is just the refrigerated delivery van and you just plug it in, it's pretty awesome.
Nicole: And is the poultry business your full-time job or do you do anything on the side?
Sara: It is full-time and then I also work at a brewery.
Nicole: Oh really?
Nicole: So you're busy is what you're saying?
Sara: Yeah. If you're wanting to get into chicken farming, there is money there but you still, it's not a lot.
Nicole: Yeah, sure.
Sara: I think it's fun and it's great and it's my passion but I still, I need a little extra.
Nicole: I know the feeling. But at least you can do something that makes you happy, that's what's important.
Nicole: So I know that the Fair Farm isn't like your baby, but since we're talking about it, can you tell me what that is?
Sara: So Fair Farm is owned by Walt Pounds. He is my business partner. And like I said, my trade is chicken knowledge. His trade is money and equipment and things to help him get going and then training his people also. So he has employees, I don't have any employees. His goal is to end up with 6,000 hens and then we're building our ... Right now our egg washer is like downtown Longmont, so it's another 15 minute drive from Fair Farm, just because of the neighbor issues.
Sara: Anyway, we're building an office egg washing cool room, everything on property soon. But that is all, it's like more than pastured, I don't know how to explain it, it's like mega pastured. And those chickens, like I said, their coops move and they always have fresh pasture. But his main goal is to hire people with disabilities to try to get more jobs available for just everybody. Because farming is, it's not ... I don't want to make it sound really dumb, but it's good for your soul. So to be able to hire some people that maybe don't have opportunities to get other jobs and have something that really fulfills their themselves, then that's his goal.
Nicole: Oh, how neat. That's very philanthropic.
Sara: Yeah, he'll have like 6,000 chickens there and then I don't, we both don't really know where we're going exactly. But basically he wants to be able to support X number of employees and I want to be able to just support myself.
Nicole: Sure. Fair enough.
Nicole: Well, once you can support yourself, then you can grow into supporting others potentially as well.
Sara: Yeah, so I think my goal really longterm is to hire basically two to three employees and then be able to live a normal life, let's call it normal for farming.
Nicole: Is there such thing?
Sara: Go home and have a day off.
Nicole: Day off, that doesn't exist.
Sara: Oh my gosh, last week I had a friend babysit my chickens so I could leave for three or four days. It was amazing, I feel so much better. But yeah, she was like, "Oh, you haven't had a day off in a while." I was like, "No, it's been like eight months."
Nicole: Oh my gosh. The joys, I don't know, it's all worth it.
Sara: It's still fun and like, I tried to take Sundays, it was like an easier day.
Sara: Yeah, whatever.
Nicole: You can sleep in until like 8:00.
Sara: Yeah. Then just I installed automatic doors and then I'm like, "All right ladies, those doors are going to let you in and out."
Nicole: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges you've faced with just kind of the farming in general?
Sara: I feel like being taken seriously has been an issue. I don't want to make it all political sounding, but being a lady and being young has been a challenge to be honest. Trying to go into grocery stores and be like, "Hi, my name is Sara, I have a farm, I have chickens, they lay eggs, I want to sell you those eggs." And they're just like, "Uh-huh." And I'm like, "No, I have 3000 chickens. I have plenty of eggs for you. I have a license. I have insurance, those kinds of hurdles."
Sara: And then just the basic startup costs of farming are insane. And that's one of the things, one of the reasons I chose chickens, because you have a quicker turnaround to start making money. If you did cattle for example, you'd have to buy cows and then they'd have babies and you have to wait almost a year, basically a year before you can sell those babies. But I got baby chicks and they start laying eggs in six months, so you have a much faster turnaround.
Nicole: Yeah. I get to understand the challenges of being a female.
Sara: Yeah. And I mean, my dad told me the other day that I have a chip on my shoulder and I was like, "Maybe I do, but I work very hard for what I do, so I don't know." Because people always assume this is the thing that gets me, they're like, "Oh, so it's a family business. Oh, so your husband?" And I'm like, "No, no, no, no, this is all me. This is mine. I enjoy this. I do this. If it goes well, I'm proud of it. If it goes terribly, it's my fault. I'm cool with that."
Nicole: No, that's good. I remember reading something, I think it was in one of the USDA newsletters I get, because technically our apiary is a USDA farm. And the number of female farmers has increased like 64% or something. That's not necessarily an exact number, but it's growing.
Sara: I feel like just generally in the world ladies are getting a voice in more things that were previously just males.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, I don't know how much you've followed like my Instagram, if at all, and that's okay. But I just recently retired as a firefighter, so I'm very familiar with the women in a male dominated line of work. I got called a dispatcher a lot.
Sara: My favorite thing is like when I go to the feed store, which I don't have to get bags of feed very much anymore because I buy in bulk. But every time I go and I need to buy some bags of feed there's a dude who's like, "Oh, let me get that for you." And I'm like, "I'm good." And they're like, "No, let me get it." And I'm like, last week I had to buy four days worth of food, which is a lot of bags of food. I forgot about the 4th of July. People will have days off then I forget that other people take days off.
Sara: So couldn't get a feed delivery. So like go to the store and I get it. And this older gentleman comes out to help me and I was like, "Sir, I got it." And I'm picking up bags and just throwing them in the back of my truck. I know how to do that, it's what I do all the time. And he's struggling and getting in my way. And I was like, "Sir, I've got it. It's all good." And he's just like, "Oh no, no, no, no, I'm a man." And I was like, "Okay, whatever. Okay, do your thing. I'll keep loading now."
Nicole: I had hurt my shoulder on the job, which is why I retired. But I went to the feed store and I had to ask for help for feed and that was the worst.
Sara: Well, I'm only five feet tall, so that's my normal struggle is like everything I need is always on the top shelf, I have to go find somebody. Okay. But yeah, I don't like asking for help. I'm like, "I can do it." I have a little bit of ego. I know.
Nicole: I totally understand. So you had mentioned when we had kind of discussed some stuff earlier that not necessarily all of the labels in the industry are what they seem.
Sara: Oh man, you don't want to get me started on that.
Nicole: Maybe I do.
Sara: Yeah, there's so much garbage. I was like, until, gosh, January, I wasn't putting a label on my eggs. I love Instagram and I always tell people like, "Just go to my Instagram, go to social media, see what I do." And then this other farmer from our state showed up in the business and he has a lot of claims on his labels that are totally not legit and have facts on it, but we won't go there. But anyway, so I finally started labeling them what they are and it is pastured. But what do you want to know about the other ones?
Nicole: Which ones if any do you think are actually meaningful?
Sara: So the regular old grocery store white eggs that are from cages or they don't say anything on them. They're what we would call conventional. But at the grocery store it just says 12 eggs, blah, blah. Those actually are better for the chickens health than any of the other labels except pastured. Because the pecking order, I don't know who you've had on your podcast, so I don't know if anyone's talked about this.
Sara: Chickens have a pecking order, which is like their hierarchy of dominance. And so it's a very clear thing. If you have any chickens in your yard or fear or seen chickens, you can see it happening. There's a queen and then there's everybody else. And then there's like the lowly sad one in a cage where there's only six hens, six to 10, anyway. They can fight that out and they can establish that and it's all good. They are still in a cage, which sucks. They lay eggs on a wire which sucks and they don't get to dust bathe or roost or do any of their natural behaviors, which all sucks but they can establish a pecking order.
Sara: Once you go to cage-free and free range. Free range is the one that really gets me but I'll get there in a second. So cage-free means they're on the floor, but the thing with cage-free is they have less than a sheet of paper, like size-wise per bird on the floor. They can move around a little bit, sure. But because they can never establish that pecking order, they actually have the highest mortality rate because they're just fighting and killing each other and they'll cannibalize each other. It's just, the way that a chicken thinks does not work for that amount of crowding.
Sara: Once you go free range, free range just means cage free with access to a door, which is 1000% garbage because there's a place over in Platteville to the East of me and they are free range farm and I've driven by and maybe seen 10 chickens out of the hundreds and hundreds of thousands outside because they're in a cage, they're in a giant barn and then a little door opens, a tiny chicken door, they don't see that. They don't go out their door. So they're still super crowded and just living in the basically cage-free environment.
Sara: But the positives to that are they can roost most of the time and they have nests that they can get in and lay eggs, so that's plus. And then organic is just cage-free fed organic food and you can't trim their beaks. But when the newest administration got put into place, there were going to be some rules put down for all of, like chicken labeling and they decided to take away all of that. So there is really no, there's no rules. So those are what you have to have and that's kind of all the rules there are. They were going to put in like you have to have X amount of space to make it organic and add more chicken or welfare type things, didn't happen. So basically it's floor space per bird is the only thing that's required.
Nicole: I thought the organic was just feed, it doesn't matter how their house, they could be in the battery cages, they just had to be fed organic feed.
Sara: Which, I don't know. This was, what? Three years ago when Trump went into office. There were supposed to be those rules where the chickens had to be cage-free, they had to not have beak clippings, they had to have dust baths and that like extra things. But most of the time they have to be cage-free. I don't think you can have, I think you can have like an organically fed conventional bird but I don't think ... don't quote me on that, that's not my expertise, I don't do that.
Nicole: Sure. No, that's right.
Sara: I'm pastured and stuck. But pastured, there are no rules at all because this is a totally new term and nobody's attempted to tackle what that means, so you have to ... Always when people ask me this, they're like, "What should I buy?" I'm like, "A, don't buy cage-free because that's the worst." And like McDonald's is like, oh, like they campaign, "We're going all cage-free." Oh my God, that's the worst thing ever. But if you're going to buy eggs, just go do some research online real quick. If you're really about animal welfare, then just go look it up, then check them out and see if anyone has posted pictures of the farm, besides the farm.
Nicole: I let it lapse this year just because I didn't get a chance to renew it, but we had our laying hens as Animal Welfare Approved and that's a third party certification and-
Sara: So actually Fair Farm tomorrow we're having the global animal partnership people come out for an audit, but I'm disagreeing with them on a few things, so that's fun.
Nicole: I think that's a different one than the Animal Welfare Approved.
Sara: Yeah. We're five different people who do the certified humane in some manner.
Nicole: Yeah, I know that, so Animal Welfare Approved, they have like umbrella corporation and I can't remember their name but I can speak from experience. This is kind of getting off topic, but having our bird certified is that, and I only have had about 50 laying hens, they are super strenuous and they come out and they do the inspection every year. So if you are following them like you're supposed to, I can at least say that those ones are legit because they're like, I had to have this huge binder and all this stuff like-
Sara: Yeah, we have to we're working on our binder. But my problem with those, and this is, I don't know, hopefully they won't listen to this, right. But so these people don't have any laying hen operations under their thing yet. They're mostly all about meat, but they have a bunch of rules and they are set on them even though ... My biggest thing right now is they want round roost so that chickens can wrap their toes around.
Sara: But here in Colorado where it gets so cold, I have flat roost because chickens don't sleep with their toes down around things, they sleep with them tucked under their feathers and they're adamant that I need to change my roost. And I'm adamant that I don't need to change my roost and it's this big huge thing. But they've actually, I tried to explain to them and I show them pictures of my hens the way they sleep, picked them up at night and they still don't believe me. And it's kind of, those kinds of things kind of get me because it's like, "Well, I'm trying to do better for their health. And I really want to say that yes, I'm approved by you, but also if I don't get approved by you because of something silly, I'm okay with it."
Nicole: Well, I would check out Animal Welfare Approved, they're pretty great. And their roosting is ... So we have two . by fours turned on their sides and it just says it needs to have not rounded but just not sharp edges. Yeah.
Sara: This lady is coming tomorrow and we're going to talk about it but I'm like set, so my business partner was like, "Sara, you need to pick your battles." I was like, "I did. This is my battle I'm picking." Yeah, so I mean I really do like, I want to like those labels and I want them to be good. But there's so many that are, again, then everyone that buys eggs has to be like, "What's this one?" And look at what they do. Because I feel like every time like cage-free was meant to be a good thing and then it turns into this terrible thing because of money, so it's the same thing.
Sara: There's so many things that start out as such a good thing. Like free range was supposed to be a good thing and now it's like total garbage. And so that's why like the new terms come out and new terms come out, so like new certifiers and like what if, I mean, I don't know all the certifiers, there could be one that's really slacking, I don't know, and that's hard. But I know that the gap people are not slacking.
Sara: So in the spring I usually do hatching projects at elementary schools and this year I was kind of overwhelmed. So I only did six classrooms or last year I think I did 23 classrooms. So I have incubators I take in and then I put eggs in them in the class and then let the kids watch that whole process happen. And they hatch eggs in the classroom and then they get to keep them as long as they want. Usually it's like two weeks so they can start to see them grow some feathers and then they get stinky and then they want to give them back to me. But I think that's kind of fun and that's something that I really enjoy.
Nicole: That's cool. I've done something similar around here, mostly with donating eggs and stuff and having incubators available to use. But I think that's really cool because it's, like we never did that when I was in school, which is weird because I grew up in the country. Maybe it was just assumed that we didn't need it because I grew up in the country. But so many kids, especially once you get into the cities have no idea and never experienced anything like that. So I think that's really cool.
Sara: Really sad though is so many adults don't know. And I have to have like a chicken sex ed talk to all the adults before we do it. Usually I'm like, "All right, everybody that's in here, we're going to talk about egg fertilization. Here's what happens. I'm not going to go into that with first graders, but I'm going to say eggs are fertilized. It's how it is." And they're like, "What? You can't do that." And they also what ... I have like, I know I'm hardheaded, but some of the teachers will be like, "Well, you can't tell them that these chickens will get eaten." And I'm like, "100% I can. If they're roosters they have to get eaten. I can't keep a hundred roosters."
Sara: So always trying to bring that up nicely and do all the things nicely. But I want everyone to be on the same page like, chicken comes from a live animal, this cool animal that I'm holding and bringing to you. Yep, that's meat, it's made of meat. Did you eat chicken nuggets? Yeah, this is where it comes from. If you go on, that's totally cool, whatever. But other people that eat chicken nuggets, that comes from a really animal.
Nicole: Yeah. So since you're able to do that hatching program, do you intentionally keep a certain number of roosters on your farm?
Sara: I keep roosters. I should've brought this up earlier. I keep roosters more for protection but I usually have one to every 100 to 200 but I have one coop. All my coops are labeled by color and it's by the color of the door at the Carter farm because it's just easier when you're like, "Go to red coop." Where's red coop? It's the one that's red. So red coop, I keep a different set of chickens there that I would like for breeding more so like just fun projects for me. And then I keep more roosters per hens there.
Sara: So normally I keep one rooster to every 200 but red coops one to 20, and that's all. There's about 25 hens and one rooster most of the time. So those are the ones I hatched from the other ones. They could be fertile, they could not be fertile, but collecting often enough keeps anything from getting weird. That's another question. They're like, "Oh my God." Do you know the egg parts?
Sara: You've got the yolk and then there's a stringy chalazae, people would be like, "Is this fertilized? Because I swear there was some sperm in it." And I'm like, "Oh no, that's the chalazae, you can't see what the male chicken does. It's not in there. It's a little spot on the yolk." But anyway, yeah, that's just kind of a funny thing.
Nicole: So in addition to obviously the birds for eggs and then your breeding projects, do you do anything else or, did you say you had meat birds? I don't recall.
Sara: Yeah. Right now I've got about a hundred and again that's Tom Whiting being like, "Hey, I have extra." So I got them this year. But I have a special chicken tractor that I keep those in and I used to have more, but we get these crazy 110 mile an hour winds sometimes. And a few of my tractors are no longer whole.
Nicole: Oh no.
Sara: So that's another project. As you know farming is just projects all the time. So anyway, I've got a hundred right now and usually in the summer I'll do one or two groups just for the people, because everyone ... People ask me like, "Oh do you have pastured meat?" And I'm like, "Only in the summer, I'm not doing that throughout the winter. They're kind of a pain in the butt." But I do keep about a hundred in the freezer just to try to help out people who want it.
Nicole: Okay. And I remember now you say you can sell them privately, just not commercially.
Sara: Yeah. And so I do the whole butchering and everything myself. I think that's the only way to do it because I just want to make sure they have a good life and a good end and I'll just do it all myself. So that's about all I can manager is a hundred at a time. We usually split it into two weekends of butchering for each group and it's like us, and then at the end of the day we have some stiff drinks and I usually am like kind of teary the whole day. I'll be, I like my chickens, it's a rough day, but hey, if you eat me, you should know where it comes from and be willing to take that on to a point.
Nicole: Sure. Well, yeah.
Sara: Not everyone is meant for butchering, but if they can understand that it comes from a real animal, that's what I want.
Nicole: The whole farm to table thing. I've talked about that on other podcasts, but I think it's so important and something that's so easily lost in today's culture.
Sara: Well, that's the thing with my eggs and people are like, "Well, I can only buy the store eggs." I'm like, "Why? I'm licensed. I wash them. I do all the things. I have all the same things that these giant farms have. Why won't you buy them?" "You're too small. They're dirty." What? Oh my goodness. I was trying to get into a new grocery store near me. It's like five minutes away, this is perfect, they're right here, great. And then that's the spiel she gave me, it was like, "No, I don't think we can sell them." And I was like, "Actually you can, here's all the paperwork." And she was still like, "Mm-mm (negative), we can't do it." Okay. All right.
Nicole: Try and try again I guess.
Sara: I know, yeah, sometimes that's a battle I didn't pick at the time. I was like, "You know what? I'm going to pick my other battles to fight the labeling people."
Nicole: The curved roosts.
Sara: Well, yeah, it's so silly, I know. I know, it's silly, but I'm going to go for it. There's reasons behind it.
Nicole: Sometimes I think people could use proper education, and so here if you're-
Sara: If you're going to tell other farmers how to do it, but you don't know why this is being done the way it is, then we need to talk. I don't know, I'm kind of anti-regulation but I'm like, "Hey, regulate the right things, so I'll fight it."
Nicole: Is there any other projects that you have going on?
Sara: Well, the brewery. I mean like, so I am now the kind of event, and we don't have a title yet, but baby chicks season happens and I was doing normal shifts, but that got to be a lot, to be like waking up at 5:00 and then getting home after. So I've worked my shift, wake up, go to your baby chicks at like 5:00 and 6:00 in the morning. And again, it's like a half hour drive. Do chickens all day, then be at the brewery by 5:30 and then work a shift till 10:00, and then have to go back to the farm and put baby chicks away-
Nicole: Oh goodness.
Sara: ... after that and then drive home. It was getting to be a little too much. So right now I'm the events person at the brewery, which is much more of my style because I am a little goofy and so I can be a goofball and run trivia and bingo and cornhole and all those things and have a shorter shift, so I like that.
Nicole: How fun.
Nicole: Which brewery do you work at? Do you feel comfortable sharing?
Sara: Oh yeah. Big Thompson Brewery.
Nicole: Okay. Very cool.
Sara: They just know everyone that comes in is like, "Oh, the chicken lady." I know. That's all they talk about all the time.
Nicole: Seems appropriate to me.
Sara: And then I have my podcast, but it's really not for me. It's Beery, so it's related to the other part of my life.
Nicole: Since you brought it up, you have to tell us about it now.
Sara: Well, okay. It's called Eerie and Beery. And what we do is my friend and I pick a beer or other people pick us beers a lot of times too. And so let's say for example, we did Stone Ripper beer. And so we were like, "What pairs with Stone Ripper?" So I did, what did I do? I did stoning. I talked about like the history of stoning and how it's used in the world and all that. And then she talked about Jack the Ripper. So we try to kind of like use the name or the style of beer and pair it with something creepy and eerie.
Sara: We talk about aliens and paranormal and serial killers and just random weird nets and drink beer. And it ends up usually with my, like at the start we're all finding good and then halfway through our beers have kind of kicked in, because you to have a free beer to get in the beery mood. And then we're kind of giggling and making silly jokes about serial killers, which is kind of awful, but very fun.
Nicole: Sounds perfect.
Nicole: And we will of course put links to everything, including your podcast in the description.
Sara: Don't listen to the first couple episodes, we were so nervous, we over drank and then it was nervous drunk people, it was awkward. So later on and then you go back and be like, " Oh, I see."
Nicole: Well, I feel like my podcasts are still awkward. I'm looking forward to the out of the awkward stage. So I totally feel like you.
Sara: I don't know that you get over the awkwardness, how many episodes have you done?
Nicole: I only have currently 11 published, but I've recorded about 30 or 40.
Sara: Okay. So we're on like around the mid thirties and we kind of like have a system now and it's like the editing where you're just like, "Well, that's happening." Like two times ago we're recording. We're recording and then the neighbor's got a new puppy. And so the puppies are just barking and barking and barking. We're like, "Okay, we'll just wait a minute." And if it barks for like 15 minutes, so we're just sitting there kind of just waiting.
Sara: And then we're like, "Okay, let's go again." And then all of a sudden the neighbor starts mowing his lawn and we're like, "Okay, seriously." And he finishes mowing his lawn. I'm like, "Okay." And then this train starts going by and I swear it was the longest train ever. So it's just like train noises and horn and we're like, "Oh my gosh." I just think you just get used to being awkward.
Nicole: Yeah. I have to say that the more of these I do, the less I edit and I'm like, "You know what? I'm a person that makes mistakes and say stupid stuff. Get over it."
Sara: We just cut out the pauses mostly because sometimes it's like this awkward pause or one time I went to drink a beer and the beer came out my nose.
Nicole: Oh no.
Sara: There was this weird like cough gagging noises. I cut that out because I felt like that wasn't appropriate. But yeah, try to be real, so I don't know.
Nicole: Yeah. So you have an open farm day coming up. Did you have a day or anything set for that or?
Sara: Yes. It's going to be so soon though, so you better get to editing. It's going to be on July 21st. We're going to ... I have a catering friend who does a lot of farm to table dinners and that kind of thing. And she's super about local food and she's one of those people I had kind of mentioned. So the new farms that come in and usually I have pretty good customer base but I had this issue and she's like my biggest backer. So she's going to come up and some of my other veggie farmer friends are going to bring veggies and she's going to make fresh omelets on the spot. So I'm going to have people go out and get eggs that they want to eat and then we'll wash them up and they can eat them right there. And I think that'd be super fun.
Sara: And then just the normal tour and probably about a hundred talks about why this is not a cage-free because everyone's like, "Oh I buy cage-free eggs. It's the same thing. Yours are $2 more." Oh my gosh, don't get me started people. So I can be like this is why, this is why they're $2 more. Here you go, look at it.
Nicole: Awesome. That sounds like a super fun event. Do you have any farm days set in the future in the event that this doesn't go out in time.
Sara: I don't have anything set yet. So most of the time I'm a little bit snobbish about the farm, because I live half an hour away and my other farm is about 15 minutes from that farm. And then my washing station is another 15 minutes. You never know where I'm at. So I don't let people just drop by and I don't usually do pickups on farm and stuff, just because I'm not there. And also I have, like my whole life depends on my birds. So when I invite people out, it's biosecurity craziness. You've got to do the foot bath, wash your hands, we're going to go through a whole thing. And then you get to see the chickens.
Nicole: No, I totally understand. And then just the whole liability thing. I have people all the time, they're like, "Can I come look at your farm?" And I'm like, "Sorry. But first of all, it's in my backyard. And second of all, no."
Sara: I've had people just like show up before at the alpaca farm, the Carter Lake location. And I'm not there, and that people who own the alpacas they do live there and they're just like wandering around and like, what are you doing this? You wouldn't just wander around someone's house, you wouldn't go over to your neighbors and you start wondering, what are you doing? I don't know, there's a kind of a weird thing about farms and people are just like, "Oh here, let's go look at stuff." And it's like, "Actually, please don't do that."
Nicole: Yes. I have that happen a lot, especially because we have our apiary out there too. And I'm like, "I don't need the liability of somebody that just happens to get stung while in my backyard and then tries to sue me." I have insurance and business insurance, but I just-
Sara: Don't want to do that.
Sara: Because I have rattle snakes on the Carter Lake farm. And everyone's like, "Well, I want to come see that one." I'm like, "You can see the Fair Farm location. We're not going after the Carter Lake location, because I've seen so many rattlesnakes and it's like on a hill with rocks and there's hiking involved to get to my coops and four wheel drive if you're in the truck. So here's some pictures." Yeah, I don't know. I feel like that's sometimes taken across wrong, people are like, "Oh, it must be dirty or something." No, it's just really not that safe.
Nicole: Yeah, I have people that get offended too. But other than the liability, the biggest thing for me is it's in my backyard, I live there.
Sara: Yeah. Well, I guess if it was in my yard I would feel the same way, but I was like, "I don't live there. You're probably not going to catch me there." And then it's just awkward because then I get ... And also it's in the middle of nowhere, the Carter Lake one and nobody ever finds it, so they're always lost somewhere-
Nicole: Oh gosh.
Sara: ... in the mountains and it's like yeah. Then I'll get messages later that are like, "Hey, we're lost. We're trying to find your farm." And I'll call them back and be like, "Hey, well, you didn't find it, but cool story. I'm sorry that you can't come see it."
Nicole: Yeah. Oh goodness.
Sara: The alpaca people do once a year open house usually like in September. If that does come up, then I let everybody come up because it's their property and share space, and if they're allowing other people, then I'll allow some people to come in that day.
Sara: But yeah, I don't know.
Nicole: The takeaway is be courteous to your local farm people.
Sara: Yeah. I don't want to be like unappreciative. I still appreciate everybody that buys my products. But also I just can't be there all the time and it's dangerous and all the things. But I want you to see it, that's why my Instagram, I try to post everyday.
Nicole: Yep, that's how we do it too. If you want to see the background, go to social media, that's the best place.
Sara: Yeah. And that's why I try to be super transparent. I had a lady who stopped buying my eggs because she was like, "I thought you gave away all your hens when they're done laying." I do, as many as I can. But some of them aren't going to do well in the backyard. They live in Carter Lake is ... it's called Mountain Sky Ranch. But that property is like hilly and there's trees and bushes and they're like actually kind of wild. I don't always see all of them all the time. They come in at night and they lay their eggs and they do their thing. I feed them, but they're just not going to transfer well to your yard and it'd be bad for them. So it's better for them to just get butchered. That sounds kind of bad, but it's true. And when she found that out she was like, "Oh, I can't believe you." I was like, "Well, I was just trying to be honest."
Nicole: Yeah. Full circle I guess.
Sara: Yeah. I mean, I don't know. You can't then buy cage-free eggs or any other eggs because all of those chickens get butchered, that was hard Like, well, I do my best and I try to make sure that as many of them as can get to go live in backyards and have the best happy life, but in every other situation they would all get butchered. And that's like the breeders from Tom Whiting, were going to get butchered but instead he called me to get them to have them lay more, like I got to pull him out of that line.
Nicole: And your birds at least have like the best possible life pre butcher unlike the battery hens or the-
Sara: Well that's, yeah, I try to, that's what I think. I was like, "Well, these cage chickens are going to be a pain in my bottom." And they were, but now they get to be happy and then when it's time for them to go, it's time for them to go and they got to have that, where they were just going to go from cage to meat. But all you people if you're on Instagram, you can look at them and see the progress they made. I tracked them for the first few days. They were pale and they had no feathers and they looked pretty terrible and you could see them kind of improve and learn how to be chicken, so it was fun.
Nicole: Oh, how fun.
Sara: Yeah, it was kind of fulfilling.
Nicole: I did something good today.
Sara: Yeah. It felt good. But they're still my employees so I don't like, people are like, "Oh, you adopted them?" No, I bought them. They're my workers, they work for me, and I appreciate them, but I'm not like rescuing. It was, yeah, I don't know, I call it redirecting. I just redirected their path, that's all.
Nicole: There you go. I like that. Is there anything else that you'd like to share about your farm or your operation or anything else that we hadn't covered?
Sara: I think what I've really wanted to get across to people all the time is to actually take a little bit of time and look into the food that you're buying. And especially if you want to do something for a reason that, like a meaningful reason, I think that's always the thing that gets me is people are trying to do humane things or trying to do things that are good for the environment. And so they start in on something and then it turns out it's actually not what they think it is.
Sara: So if you do have a passion about something, I think that should look them up and look into it because there's a lot of garbage out there. That's my main day to day struggle is, oh, I buy cage-free, like, "Oh my gosh." So I don't know, like doing things in more pastured way is my game plan, but I don't know. Oh, I have another thing, I'm sorry. On August 10th and August, let me look at my phone, the Tractor Supply in Loveland is going to be adopting out some of my hens.
Nicole: Oh, cool.
Sara: So you can come in if you want to take any out, you want to redirect them again, then there'll be at Tractor Supply, so the 10th and the 24th. I don't really know the dates and time, or the time and the details yet for that. But I will be taking hens to be adopted.
Nicole: Do you know what kind and age of hens or is that still to be determined?
Sara: Well, right now I have a group of 300, one and a half year olds. They were the ones that were in the cage. So they're at Fair Farm, they were holding down a spot or coop there, but the next group of baby chicks was just purchased. And then the people who were making our trailers moved. So I need to move them out as soon as I can to get these babies a place. So there's Rhode Island whites, Welsummers and Whiting True Blues in that group.
Sara: But the next group to move out, there'll be Brown Leghorns. Who else is in there? Rhode Island reds and Whiting True Blues.
Nicole: Very cool.
Sara: All you people in Colorado, if you need chickens hit me up.
Nicole: Perfect. And you kind of covered this earlier, but so Facebook, Instagram, how else can people follow you, get ahold of you, see what you have going on.
Sara: G-mail, [email protected]. If you have a long question to ask me, shoot. I mean, that's the best. I don't really Twitter or any of the other social medias really.
Nicole: Sure. And we'll put the links to all those in the descriptions so people can find you easily there as well.
Sara: Awesome. Yeah. I like to show off my Instagram, so that's my favorite.
Nicole: Yeah. Well, I am now following you as of this podcast. I'm not very prompt about pre-following people, but I'll get there eventually.
Sara: I was all excited and I was like, "I'm going to listen to this before I get interviewed." And I'll be all caught up and then I was like, "Well, it's the day off."
Nicole: Yeah. Life happens. It's all good.
Sara: I'm going to say like hashtag farming and just still have time.
Sara: People like us to, all the time they're like, "Oh yeah, so what are you doing Saturday?" And I'm like, "Well, what time?" Well, I don't know, but we're going to like have a barbecue. Well, I'll try my best. And you're like, "Oh, do you want to go out of town for a couple of days?" Like, I can't.
Nicole: It's too stressful.
Sara: It sucks sometimes. It's kind of a good excuse, so other times I really don't want to do that. Actually I have chores.
Nicole: Yeah. Oh darn.
Sara: Oh shoot. Yeah.
Nicole: Well, I don't have any more chicken questions.
Sara: Cool. Well, I don't have any more chicken answers if you don't have questions.
Nicole: Okay. Well, Sara, thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. I enjoyed talking to you and learning about your operation and chatting with you and this has been fun.
Sara: Yeah, I hope I didn't come off as too much of the crazy chicken lady. I know I am one, but we tried to cover that up most.
Nicole: Well, I don't think there's such thing as the sane chicken lady.
Sara: Yeah, it's the cat lady. Once you get more than three, it's done.
Nicole: It's downhill from there.
Sara: That's one of my favorites. People are like, "Oh." When they find out that I have chickens, someone will bring it up like, oh yeah, Sara's got chickens because they'll ... And they're like, "Oh, I have chickens in my yard." And they're like, "How many do you have?" Like 3,000. And they're like, "Cool, I have chicks." Once you get over a thousand though, adding another thousand isn't anything.
Nicole: Yeah, I only have eight 50, but I can imagine. I'll just put it that way.
Sara: What kind do you have?
Nicole: I have just a whole bunch of different kinds. I started out with like the standard, I still have some of my like five and six year old Australorps and stuff. And then I've got some Easter eggers and then last year I bought some more specialty kinds. So I've got some Maran, some Isbar, some Salmon.
Sara: What do they look like?
Nicole: I don't say it right, but the Salmon Faverolles, whatever. Oh gosh.
Sara: I don't say it right either. That's why I have the ones with the puffy head that are, they're French and they're like Crevecoeurs.
Nicole: Oh yeah.
Sara: I don't remember where that, yeah, that's why I didn't mention those earlier.
Nicole: Those ones are cute. I've got some Swedish Flower hens, I've got some Polish. The puffy head made me think of those ones.
Sara: Yeah. Poofs, I call them my poofs.
Nicole: Yeah, I like the poofs, they're very cute.
Nicole: I just kind of like-
Sara: I have like 70 that have names and one of my 70 that has a name. Her name is Sasha and she's a poof and she is a hair tie, like the days, while I was out of town last week, she got a hair tie for the week because I was like, "All right dude, extra protection, you got to be able to see while I'm not here."
Nicole: I never name mine because the first five or six that we named were the ones that got picked off by predators.
Sara: It happens. Yeah. I feel like it's like a bad thing, but there's those ones that they just have such a personality, you got to give them a little name.
Nicole: I have a little Polish and I don't think she's supposed to be a Bantam, but she's tiny.
Sara: Just a little one.
Nicole: Yep. And of course she is picked on so she's missing feathers and stuff, poor little thing. But she's my little buddy. I let her out, and she follows me everywhere and I can call her over and I can pick her up. This is taking it too far. I actually have a couple of chicken diapers because sometimes to bring her to the office.
Sara: Well, my hatching projects, I have a couple chickens that go with me and they have harnesses and people are like, "Seriously." Like, well, they don't even need them because they'll just follow me but yeah, just in case. When you go into the stores they say at leashed pets allowed like they are on a leash lets go.
Nicole: There you go. Oh that's perfect.
Sara: But try a hair tie on your little Polish.
Nicole: Well, right now her flock mates haven't let her grow full.
Sara: Oh, she don't have a poof.
Nicole: She has a half poof.
Sara: Sasha's sister has a half poof.
Nicole: Yeah. My little Polish doesn't have a name. I've been afraid to name her because as soon as I do she'll-
Sara: Yeah. Oh man, I had one in my yard, her name was Jess. She was my teaching chicken and she was this amazing chicken. I only keep three or four in my yard. And that's again, for biosecurity. They're the ones that get to go do things. They've had issues and they haven't been accepted back into the flock. So they're now my ambassadors. But I had Jess and last year, I don't know what happened, she somehow hurt her head and her brain was inflamed and she died. And my boyfriend and I both cried. He was like, "I don't think I'd get attached to a chicken." And then, yeah, so I understand. I don't want to name them. But at the same time I'm like, "You know what? That's Sasha." I think that they channel old souls. So I like to name them after old people like Muriel and Ethel.
Nicole: Do you have a Gertrude?
Sara: I used to have a Gertrude. Something happened.
Nicole: I always felt like naming the Polish Gertrude. I don't know why. It just seemed appropriate.
Nicole: Yeah. But she doesn't have a name that's going to be an Instagram thing. Help me name her. I just need to post it.
Sara: Well, so when I go to do the hatching projects, that's the prize for the people who answer the questions right. I feel bad because I don't ever actually remember. But I'm like, "You can name one of the babies if you get this question right." And they always name them the silliest things. They're little kids, they're like Graham Cracker.
Nicole: Oh that's so cute.
Sara: Peyton Manning was one and I was like, "Why did you name him Peyton Manning?" Oh, I really like Peyton Manning. I never would have guessed it, first grader.
Nicole: At least go with Von Miller. I mean he at least has chickens.
Sara: I know. Well, so Jess was trained to be inside and she had a towel and if she had to poop, she would go to the towel.
Nicole: Oh wow.
Sara: You can color train them. It's super, you can do with parrots and it worked on her. It doesn't work with anybody else. But I would take her picture because I like football. So I would take her picture with the football game, the background because she would watch it and then I would always tag Von Miller and be like, "Hey Von Miller, let's be best friends." Didn't work. He's not my friend.
Nicole: Well, I feel like that'd be a fun chicken friend to have.
Sara: I know, yeah, Justin Von Miller.
Nicole: Right. How appropriate. Well, she wasn't using the bathroom on like his Jersey or anything.
Sara: No, no, no, had a pink towel. Her pink towel was her hangout place and she would poop there and then we'd get a new pink towel. They used to be white towels then they turned pink, so they ended up being chicken towels.
Nicole: Oh, there you go. How interesting. I didn't know you could color train them in school.
Sara: My one in the backyard, you can train them to differentiate shapes and colors. And Muriel used to be trained where I could hold up a little. I had like, I made Popsicle sticks with shapes on them. I know, it's crazy. I wanted her to do cool things for the school kids. But you could hold it up and then she had a poster on the ground and she would go and pick the right shape or color and then give her a treat. But she's just become like, "No, give me the treat." And she'll just jump on my head. I'll sit down to do it and she just jumps on your head and is like, "Treats now please." So it doesn't work anymore. But they are much more intelligent than people give them credit for. Meat chickens are not. But laying hens, I think they tend to be a lot more intelligent than people assume.
Nicole: I mean, I didn't think they were dumb, but I didn't realize that they had that level of intelligence. That's interesting.
Sara: Look up chicken agility, it's a thing.
Sara: I've never done that. That's too far for me. But it's a thing.
Nicole: Well, YouTube, here we come.
Sara: You're going to be on there a while. It'll suck you in, you just keep clicking the next video. Like what?
Nicole: Well, I got the rest of my afternoon planned.
Sara: All right.
Nicole: Well, on that note.
Sara: Yeah, go and watch the chicken videos.
Nicole: Go and watch the chicken videos. I'll find my favorite one that I can find and post the link and then people can see that one.
Sara: It's for real. I didn't believe it. And my friend was teaching dog training courses and before they got their dog they had to train a chicken and I was like, "No way." Yeah, way.
Nicole: Wow. It's kind of interesting prerequisite.
Sara: Yeah. If you can train a chicken, you can train a dog. I don't know how that goes.
Nicole: Sounds reasonable. Yeah. Well ...
Sara: And that was a weird side path that we just took, but that's okay.
Nicole: No, that's fine. I'm just picturing chicken digitally in my head and it's just got me distracted.
Sara: It's better when you watch it. Their little hops are on-
Nicole: Oh my gosh. Well, now I'm going to have to go watch YouTube videos. So thank you again, Sara, for joining me. I really appreciate it.
Sara: I appreciate the opportunity and like I said, I get a little bit defensive sometimes, so I apologize if that happened but-
Nicole: Oh no.
Sara: It's nothing.
Nicole: Of course.
Sara: Look into it.
Nicole: Do your homework and just don't take things face value.
Sara: Yeah, there's so much crap.
Nicole: Yeah. Awesome. Well, again, we'll post all the links to your contact information and your social media accounts so everybody can see all of the cool things that you have going on in your farm and hopefully we can send some listeners out to your open farm day and maybe adopt some of your chickens.
Sara: Yeah, that would be awesome. I want them to have good homes with people who appreciate them, even if they're going to eat them after a while, they still lay some eggs, whatever. I just want them to continue on their life in a good way.
Nicole: Well, Sara, thank you again. I really appreciate it.
Sara: Yeah, no worries. Thanks for having me.
Nicole: Of course. Thanks for joining us. And to the listeners, thank you so much for listening to another episode of Backyard Bounty and we'll see you again next week.
Announcer: Thank you for listening the Backyard Bounty, a podcast by heritageacresmarket.com. Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show, please email us at [email protected]. Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week.
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