Category Archives: Raising

CLASS-Basics of Backyard Chickens-April 19


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Basics of Backyard Chickens: Free ClassLearn the basics about starting your own flock Time: 10 am-12 pm Instructors: Mike Warren/Molly Prewitt Location: Mike & Molly’s House, 747 Old Las Vegas Highway, Santa Fe (The house is on the right side directly across from Rancheros Campground. Call Mike or Molly at their house if you get lost-505-466-8998)

RSVP to 505-983-9706 or email:

Chickens are inquisitive, entertaining and food-producing.  Owning a small flock of chickens is becoming as popular as having a cat or dog.  They are easy if you have an understanding of what they need for shelter, food and health.

Come learn how you can start your own flock today.  Find out what is the best breed for you, how to provide a healthy diet and what type of chicken coop is right for your backyard.

Learn how to build a proper brooder and how to deal with predator issues.  Walk through Mike and Molly’s chicken yard and find out what they have learned about what works and what does not from raising chickens for over 10-15 years.  Suggested $10 donation. Become a 2014 Member for $35 with $250 value-includes all classes, potlucks and tour.

2013-Classes This Weekend June 15 & 16

 Here are the two classes from this weekend.  Please sign-up online.

BeeBees & Pollination
Saturday, June 15, 2013 10-12pm
Santa Fe Skies- Indoor Class
14 Browncastle Ranch (end of Cerrillos at Hwy 14 &599)
Enjoy breakfast from Crumpackers Bakery and Cafe

RSVP for this class

The pollination process is necessary for most of our important commercial food and nursery crops. The honeybee is the major pollinator for crops such as grapes, onions, the cucurbits, almonds and fruit crops.  Although there are other pollinators, the farmers of these crops would loose most of their production without the honeybee. This class will provide an in depth look at the pollination process and its relationship with the honeybee. It will include the results of an ongoing study of the garden and wild plants in the Santa Fe area that are available throughout the year to honeybees. An emphasis will be placed on the identification and flowering schedules of the plants most visited by the bees.

Ken Bower has had a passion for growing plants and vegetables since his youth. Living in Santa Fe for the past 14 years, he and his wife created Eldorado Windy Farm. He completed the Master Gardener course in 2001, sells his lavender products and beeswax at the Eldorado Farmer’s Market and assists friends the Santa Fe Farmer’s Market.  Ken is also a beekeeper and active member of the Sangre de Cristo Beekeepers Association.  For the past couple years Ken has been actively recording the flowering schedules of plants to determine which pollens are most sought after by his bees.

JannineOrganic Pest Control
Sunday, June 16
Frenchy’s Community Garden
Presented with City of Santa Fe Parks Division

Please RSVP for class

(Park on Osage and Agua Fria and walk to garden.  Past the playground, labryinth and garden in a black fence.  Class is past the garden to the right of orchard on park tables)

Jannine Cabossel, a Master Gardener and ‘The Tomato Lady’ at the Santa Fe Farmers Market will teach a class on how to control pests and diseases. Jannine has extensive experience in growing vegetables on her 2000 square foot garden using all organic methods. Follow her blog at Suggested $10 donation or become a member for $35.

Buy Fresh Poultry

I just bought four chickens from Mike & Molly and they delivered to me in Santa Fe. Great 5lb chickens in my freezer. I used to buy chickens from Beneficial Farms CSA so that they were local and I knew where they came from but they don’t have any available this month. These are packed well.  You can buy chickens or visit Mike & Molly at two Farmer’s Markets that are listed at the end of this email. Here is the blog entry from their site to describe their process.

Fresh Poultry

We are deep into our chicken season and it seems like there is a chicken at every turn.  This year we decided to raise and process 200 chickens.  Hmmm, what to do with almost 200 chickens?!  That is the question.  For now we are going with the ‘if we build it they will come’ attitude.

Mike:  Yep, cause’ that has worked so well for us before!

Molly:  Alright, we are out at the Farmers Market in Eldorado on Fridays through June and a new totally awesome market on your way out to Las Campanas at the wine store. 

We started this a few years ago to see what it was like to raise our own food.

Molly:  Having raised chickens for eggs for over a decade I wanted to challenge myself.  When I researched how chickens are raised for food my eyes were opened to the great wide world of the industrial poultry business.  I just could not see being a chicken farmer using these industrial techniques where the conditions seem awful and disease was a huge issue.  Right away I read everything I could get my hands on small scale chicken farming.  This education sent me to the conclusion that I would raise my own chicken using these guidelines:

  • Chickens raised in the outdoors
  • No pesticides
  • No meat by-products
  • No antibiotics or drugs
  • No growth enhancers
  • No hormones

Cornish XCross about 5 weeks old

Cornish XCross about 5 weeks old

The first year we raised 75 selling  about half to friends.  Now we do batches of 50 chickens spaced three weeks apart.  After seeing how we were doing it a friend and her husband started raising their own meat chickens along side their small flock of layer chickens.  It was infectious!

Last year Mike visited his cousin in Maine who raises over 8,000 chickens a season out on his pasture.  He was able to pick up tips on how to care for this delicate meaty breed and faster ways to dress a chicken.  After that we felt inspired to up the number of chickens we were raising.

We will always be a small chicken raising operation.    With 50 chickens at a time there is space to let them roam, scratch and sunbath (yes they love to stretch out in the sun).  It’s more difficult for disease to spread because many of the diseases that are typical in industrial chicken farms can be knocked out by the ultraviolet rays from the sun or the ventilation called ‘the outside’.   We’ve been lucky not to have disease problems but if it did happen it would be contained to only 50 chickens.

Chicken FAQs:

What breed of chicken do you raise?  Why?

Cornish XCross.  Although you can eat any type of chicken CornishXCross are by far the most popular.  They have a lot more meat on them than heritage or dual purpose breeds.  If you buy poultry in the store this is the kind of chicken you are getting.  Even though there are some 9 billion chickens consumed in the US, the word on the street is that they all come from only 4 hatcheries in the US.  I order them from a hatchery in Eastern NM but they get them from Iowa.

What do they eat?

Bugs, greens from weeding the garden and feed that has been formulated for the needs of the fast growing nature of these animals. We change the type of feed based on the age of the chicken.  Over the last few years I’ve tried several different feed companies.  I’ve stayed with Ranch Way because of the success I’m having but also when ever I have any questions I have the direct phone number of their nutritionalist.

Are they pasture raised?

No.  The first year we used mobile pens that we moved daily over our grassy areas.  The issue was predators.  The coyotes and raccoon attacked the pens nightly causing stress to our chickens and very little sleep for us!  They spend 3 weeks in the brooder and then move to a large fenced area where they spend the next 4 weeks.  At night they sleep in a coop that is secured against predators.

Where are they processed?

We process them at home.  We follow the guidelines set by the USDA for chicken farmers raising less than 1,000 chickens per year.  The last time I researched it there was only one chicken processing plant open to small chicken farmers in New Mexico and it’s a few hundred miles away.  It’s a lot of hard work but we have friends that come and help and make a day of it.

How much are they and how do they come?

We sell whole chickens for $4.50/lb.  They range from 3- 5lbs and come bagged and frozen.

How can I get one?

  1. Contact us and set up a time to pick up your poultry.  If you’re in the Albuquerque area we have a pick up there too! We deliver if you live in the Santa Fe area and order 3 or more chickens.
  2. Come by Eldorado Farmers market at the La Tienda Mall on Friday June 15th, 22nd or 29th.
  3. Come by the Farmers market at Arroyo Vino’s on Thursdays from 2-6pm in June.  They are located at 218 Camino La Tierra.

Native Bees

Paul Navrot provided a class at Milagro Community Garden on native pollinators and here is a summary and some of the tools.  This is the information that he put together and you can contact him below at his website.
The Native Bees Class on Sunday, May 20th included a discussion focused on the cultivation of non-honey producing, North American bees.   These non-aggressive pollinators serve an important ecological function in agricultural practices of all scales that incorporate crops not dependent on wind-pollination.  Gardeners, or anyone interested in supporting, cultivating, and observing these crucial roles in the ecosystem can rear mason and leaf-cutter type bees by building habitat.  Adult bees rear larvae in nests created using mud or vegetation – mason and leaf-cutter types respectively, in bored holes that are found in tree trunks.  A gardener can imitate this habitat by drilling horizontal, or slightly downward holes in dead wood that receives morning sun and is protected from rain and snow.  A paper lining or cardboard tube inserted into this cavity can allow the harvesting of young in the event of incomplete emergence the following year.  Special attention should be given to integrate a diversity of flowering plants, particularly natives, in garden compositions for sources of nectar and pollen. Included as part of this class was actual construction where the class built and installed a bee-brooder-post at the Milagro Community Garden.  Employing basic carpentry, the class quickly transformed two pieces of untreated ‘two-by-four’ into a bee brooder that is capable of rearing hundreds of mason and leaf-cutter type bees.  The brooder-post serves as highly conspicuous place where people can observe the life processes of pollinators while they assist in the fruit and seed setting of crops in nearby gardens.
Published resources for more information regarding native bees …
Bee Basics: An Introduction to Our Native Bees,” by Dr. Beatriz Moisset, and Dr. Stephen Buchmann.

The New Mexico Native Bee Pollinator Project

Penn State Extension, “Wild Bees as Alternative Pollinators

This Template will help you drill holes for your bees- drilling template

Pablo Navrot’s website/ garden journal

Backyard Chicken Tips

We have an entry from the local blog Mike & Molly’s House. They have a mini-farm outside of Santa Fe and write about money-saving ideas, gardening, chickens, recycled paper greenhouse production and much more. You can follow them at and come to their classes in April and May.

Chicken Season- GO!

After last years disasterous chicken farming season I was almost ready to give up.  With the bees gone I’m not feeling like a very successful mini-farmer.  So as an unsuccessful mini-farmer I’m going to follow my typical impulse and try, try again; I’ve decided to raise 200 chickens this year.  I ordered them to arrive in batches of 50 last week.  They will  be coming every 3-6 weeks over the next 6 months.

1 week old Cornish XRock chicks

1 week old Cornish XRock chicks

Part of the problem last year:

1.  It’s recommended to keep the chicks in a *brooder from day 1- week 3.  I left them in the brooder one week too long.  They had plenty of space but because they are already stressed in the high altitude I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.  Controlling the dust and keeping things clean becomes real difficult past week 3 in our brooder.

2.  I’m raising fast growing Cornish XCross  chickens (AKA broilers).  It is a breed that is not recommended to raise when you are living over 6,000 ft in altitude…we are over 7,000 ft. They grow so quickly and are so much better tasting that I ‘m going to keep adjusting my growing techniques to allow these chickens to thrive.

3.  Last year we had a batch in with the baby ducks.  Hindsight is everything.  What I didn’t know is ducks get their water everywhere.  These chicks are delicate.  I believe that the moisture in the air and in the bedding might have led respiratory illness.

Changes this year:

  • They will only be kept in the brooder for the allotted 3 weeks.
  • I’m adding some vitamins and minerals to their water.  It’s called ‘Broiler Booster’ and I get it from Murray McMurray Hatchery
  • I will take July and August off- this is the hottest time in Santa Fe.  The heat can stress the chickens.
  • Mike’s cousin raises pastured chickens commercially (ironically he’s a vegetarian) in Maine.  He has had more success then any other chicken farmer I have read about (<5% loss).  I’m going to talk to him more and get details how I can make improvements.

A few things you may have not known:

Although you can eat any type of chicken CornishXCross are by far the most popular.  If you buy poultry in the store this is the kind of chicken you are getting.  Even though there are some 9 billion chickens consumed in the US. The word on the street is that only 4 hatcheries in the US that hatch CornishXCross.  I ordered them from a hatchery in Eastern NM but they get them from Iowa.

Raising our own chickens to eat means we can assure they were raised in sunlight and fresh air (which help to control diseases), they are killed quickly and processed cleanly without using harsh chemicals.

Cornish XCross’s are not very attractive nor do they have endearing personalities.  I’m just sayin’ it makes butcher day a little easier.

*A brooder is an enclosed area that keeps the chicks warm and away from any drafts.  There’s many variations on the theme.  We made our walls out of plexi-glass to allow as much natural light in as possible.  Some issues with a brooder is ventilation.  It’s tough to ventilate when you don’t want to expose them to drafts.  To help this we’ve attached a small outside run to the brooder.  We start letting them go outside when they are about 10 days old.

Moving upward and onward…

So with my chin up and the brooder cleaned out I will try once again to be the best chicken farmer I can be.  On the bright side I don’t have to do much to do better than last year!

Start Your Backyard Chickens

Do you want to have healthier eggs from your own backyard?  Would you like to add some vibrant feathered friends to your family? Start keeping chickens this year and change your home into a homestead.  Chicks are available this spring at several locations in Santa Fe.  They require care, feeding and protection but are not complicated or expensive to own.

Basics for the First 60 Days
When you first bring the chicks home, they’ll need a brooder box.  This is a warm, dry and safe place for your chicks to live for the first two months.  The brooder box can be a large box or crate that is 18″ high with straw or wood shavings in the bottom.  It will need to be located in a place that is safe from curious pets or children. Chicks must be kept at 95 degrees during the first week, so you will need a lamp or heat source.  Make sure that the area is warm before bringing the chicks home.

Water and food are the next items on the checklist.  Clean water must be available at all times. A fount is a way to provide water to your small chicks and can be purchased at the local stores listed below.  Chick feed is higher in protein than adult feed.  A feeder will help keep the feed dry and in one place, so that it is available to the chicks at all times. The local feed stores below can provide more information and options.

Checking on the chicks several times per day is important to make sure that the environment is dry, draft-free, warm and they are safely growing.  Human interaction is recommended to have them be used to people and living in your backyard chicken coop.

Pick Out Your Chicks
Here are three locations in Santa Fe that have chicks available this spring.

Critters & ME
1403 Agua Fria Street

Monte Vista Fuel & Feed, Inc.
3155 Agua Fria Street
Mon – Fri 9am – 6pm
Sat 9am – 2pm

The Feed Bin
1202 West Alameda Street
Mon – Fri 8am – 6pm
Sat 9am – 5pm

Other Resources for Your Backyard Coop
Enjoy your baby chicks.  Start planning their coops, eating areas and protection from predators.  There are resources locally as well as online.  Here are a few magazine websites that have covered chickens in the past month.

Mother Earth News – click here for the website

Urban Farm- click here for the website