Iowa State Student Chicken Coops

Last week I took a ride down to Ames, Iowa to see the creations of many students from photo8Iowa State University.  As reported on KCCI:

“Chicken coops designed by new architecture students at Iowa State University are on display.

The 20 coops, with names ranging from “The Griddle” to “Raise the Roost,” went on display Monday at the southeast lawn of the College of Design building. They will be there until Oct. 25.

More than 80 new majors in the professional architecture degree program participated photo6in the project, which involve coops that house between three and five chickens. Students had a little over two weeks to complete the project.

Students needed to research chicken care basics, conceptualize their designs, salvage or purchase materials, and manage a budget.

The coops will be auctioned at the Ames farmers market on Oct 26. Proceeds will reimburse costs and benefit the school’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects.”photo

These are some of the most unique coops I have seen and applaud the students in their creations!


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Today’s food and farming system is distinctly segregated.  Following the local food tsunami, however, urban and back yard poultry rearing are on the upswing.  City poultry ordinances are popping up everywhere, a welcome sign toward self-reliance and better food.

Perhaps no one has done more to advance the integrated chicken agenda than Pat Foreman, self-acclaimed chicken whisperer and author of “City Chicks.”  She addresses all the naysayer concerns and shows the positive results of home-based flocks.  She does the math to show that if many households kept a handful of chickens, the entire despicable industrial poultry industry would be unnecessary.

I find it fascinating that most of the anti-factory chicken farming activists do not understand that the most efficient way to advance their agenda is to create an alternative production model.  Except for those who are actually anti-domestic animal folks, most of these efforts would accomplish more faster by freeing in-home or near-home poultry legalization than fighting against industrial-scale production.

It’s the fundamental difference between freedom and tyranny.  Which gets us where we want to go faster: additional governmental regulations or liberty toward self-reliance, self-determination, and what the Declaration of Independence called “the pursuit of happiness?”  Usually things that have grown too big or too powerful or too despicable have done so in a vacuum of entrepreneurial innovative competition–in this case, the vibrant
and common home-scale flock . . . criminalized.

If the animal rights folks who have leveled their guns on factory farms had spent the same effort on liberating families from self-reliance criminalization, their path would be a higher moral road and certainly far more enjoyable in the marketplace.  Sugar always attracts more flies than vinegar.  Freedom from the bottom up is also a lot
easier to govern than adding regulations.

Home-based poultry can be quiet, sanitary, and wonderful.  In her delightful book, Pat points out that one average pet dog poops more than 11 chickens.  For the record, dog poop is far nastier than chicken poop.  I’ve ceased being amazed by the fears conjured up by the ignorant.

How many people eat industrial factory eggs dipped in chlorine to kill pathogens and then say that home-based chickens pose a health risk?  As if the other type of chicken poses no risk.  Charges of pathogenicity, vermin, and noise round out the charges. They are also spurious.

Interacting with Chickens can help build immunity.  The concern in the medical community that our children no longer interact with things that challenge their immune system is real and growing.  A few pecks and scratches, perhaps even nibbling on some manure as a child, can exercise the immune system.

Proliferating auto-immune disorders, according to the historical record compiled by Diamond, could be a direct result of hyper-cleanliness and failure to touch and handle domestic livestock.  That insurance underwriters now question whether farm visitors should be allowed to touch animals is germane to this discussion.  Our fearful
and timid, disconnected and dependent society is gradually trying to cut the final tie to our ecological umbilical.

We do so at our own peril, sacrificing our children’s immune system on the altar of a segregated, paranoid food system.  I say the way to build immunity, food integrity, and independence is to re-create the highly integrated and participatory food system of our forebears.  When you order your chicks and they arrive in the mail, you are
bringing into your family a fundamentally life-affirming and healing project.

Yes, they’re cute.  Yes, they’ll lay great tasting eggs.  But even more importantly, they’ll build your children’s immune systems, teach them chore ethics, and give them a visceral look into our awesome creation.  Why would anyone deny, or want to deny someone else’s children, that opportunity?

A home-based chicken flock may be one of the most profound freedom-actions anyone can do.  Extricating ourselves from pharmacies, from industrial food, and from ignorance is a striking advance toward liberty.  And you thought raising a few chickens would just be cool.  It is, but it’s a lot more.

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Baked Eggs

Img_6420There are so many things that Grandparents pass along to us - the many life lessons, the calm gentle suggestions derived from years of experience and the sweet perfections from tried and true experiments in the kitchen.  The last category is of course where the baked eggs fit into.  Great grandma, or GG as we call her now since the birth of my children, makes the best baked eggs.  Quite honestly, until I met my wife, I had no idea what baked eggs were.  As far as I knew, my in-laws were playing another joke on the new addition to their family that would believe anything to please them and have the blessing of marrying their daughter.  I’ve grown wiser in recognizing their antics and now also have come to know and love GG’s baked eggs.  While I don’t think it was GG’s original creation, she has modified an original recipe to her own that I dare not part from.  So it is with love and a deep desire for all to share in this wonderful treat and experience that I give you the recipe to GG’s Baked Eggs.Img_6412

GG’s Baked Eggs*

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • Nutmeg
  • Lemon Juice
  • Powdered Sugar

Melt butter in skillet.  Mix flour, milk and eggs; Beat together with whisk.
Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Pour mixture into skillet**.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Sprinkle finished product with lemon juice and powdered sugar.

*Original recipe called for half a cup of flour, half cup of milk, two eggs and full stick of butter.  **Skillet sizes will vary.

We cut the baked eggs like a pie and serve.

My wife prepared the baked eggs the first time I saw them.  Quite honestly, I thought something went seriously wrong- Like the time she was trying to make me a grilled cheese sandwich on the stove at my parents’ house.  I’ve never scrambled for a fire extinguisher quite as fast as I did that day.  My dad worked nights so I’m sure him being awakened by the fire alarm and smoke was quite a startle.  We all suffered from the experience as we watched him run from the bedroom to the front door in his underwear.  Some images just seem to stick in your mind forever.  The baked egg will rise far above the sides of your skillet and just start to turn inward in most skillets.  While it appears to be a freak of nature, rest assure, it is how it is supposed to be.Img_6414

Now you will notice the recipe does not specify exactly how much lemon juice or powdered sugar to use.  The amounts will have to be applied to your specific taste preference.  My wife likes to sprinkle the powdered sugar sparingly, God bless her.  After nearly 15 years of marriage and over 20 years together, she has to know that I need a little more powdered sugar.  Again, apply to your taste preference.

It is almost overwhelming to hear my four year old son ask if he can have GG’s Baked Eggs in the morning for breakfast.  With a supply of happy hens in the back yard, our continuous supply of eggs helps make that possible.

Our GG is the best cook.  From her homemade apple pies to pumpkin pies with her signature pumpkin faces of dough on the top, the holidays were never complete until she presented her creations for us all to enjoy.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a certain grandson-in-law who benefitted many times from her dropping off his favorite of a peach cobbler for no special reasons other than she loved to do it.  I can taste the cobbler now just writing about it.Img_6420

Recipes are pretty amazing really.  While we don’t get to see GG that often any longer, the memories flood right back to our minds and hearts as my daughters help their mother prepare one of her many recipes.  One day, God willing, my daughters will share GG’s recipes and my wife’s recipes with their children and grandchildren.  They will speak fondly and lovingly of the memories they have of their loved ones and continue the generational right of passage of sharing such.  After all, a recipe without the love and memories of where it came from is, well,  just a recipe.  When you find a new recipe, share it with someone special and create a new story – one that will be remembered.


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The Perfect Chicken – By Joel Salatin

What’s your idea of the perfect chicken?  Do you want the fluffiest?  The biggest?  The smallest?  The most color variety?  The least color variety?  The friendliest?  The meanest?  The fastest?  The slowest?

Everybody has a dream chicken–at least all Murray McMurray Hatchery customers.  And it’s an eclectic mix of fantasies.  At the risk of sounding pontifical, here’s my dream laying hen:

1.   aggressive grazer

2.   smart enough to run from hawks

3.  never sick; vibrant health

4.  big enough to make a nice stewer (4 lbs. at least) at the end of her productive life

5.  lays 220 eggs year one and 180 eggs year two

6.  purebred (nonhybrid)

Notice I don’t give a hoot about color or feed conversion.  I want longevity, hardiness, and thrift.  Nearly 50 years ago, when I got my first batch of 50 straight run heavy breed specials from Sears and Roebuck (18 pullets and 32 cockerels–yeah, right, straight run) they were bullet proof and big.  Of course, I realize everything is bigger to a 10-year-old, but even up until a couple of decades ago, these standard bred dual-purpose layers typically weighed more than 6 pounds and yielded a nice 4.5-5 pound golden-fat, plump stewing hen.

These Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, New Hampshire Reds, Black Australorps and White Rocks were the mainstay of both broiler and egg production.  But as the double-breasted hybrids like Cornish Cross became possible, then popular, then industry-standard, the meat quality of the dual purpose bird gradually fell into obsolescence.

Even traditionalists and backyard breeders began selecting smaller body phenotypes.  Pasturing fell into disrepute as well, reducing the need for brains and brawn.  Routine antibiotic feeding, vaccination, and indoor housing changed the genetic goals.  On our farm today (Polyface Farm) we keep some 4,000 non-hybrid layers in rotated Premier poultry net corrals (electrified portable fencing) or free-range Eggmobiles pulled behind grazing cattle.

In an outdoor setting, our biggest management issues are weather extremes and predation.  But we also have another desire:  high quality eggs.  That means we need birds that hunt and graze aggressively.  We move these flocks almost daily to new pasture areas, giving them unimpeded access to fresh, succulent forage and the full spectrum of insects, worms, and bugs that live there.

Even with that ideal pasturage situation, however, we have quite a variety of egg quality.  In any given dozen, we’ll have several extremely dark orange yolks (indicating high Omega 3 fatty acids–that’s good).  But we’ll also have lighter shades and even a pale egg occasionally.  What’s the difference?  The pale eggs are coming from lazy birds that just hang around the feeders and lounge inside.

To my knowledge, nobody in the world is selecting genetics based on yolk color.  In the world of nutrition, however, yolk color is the gold standard for everything regarding nutrition.  From folic acid to riboflavin, taste and nutrient density all find their nexus in yolk color.  If it’s so important, why is nobody breeding for that?  Because they haven’t been asked.  As the pastured poultry movement takes hold to address the local integrity food tsunami, I’m hoping someone will begin selecting genetics based on yolk color.

The other criteria on my wish list–longevity and hardiness–took second place to egg production.  As the meat industry reduced the need for the dual purpose bird, these traditional dual-purpose breeds could only find value in non-commercial egg production.  The overriding genetic selection criterion was feed conversion to eggs.  That mandated a smaller body phenotype.  When that happened, the birds became more fragile, more flighty (less docile), and more stupid.

Routine vaccination and medication mask genetic weaknesses.  While some in the animal rights movement would charge me with animal abuse, I would rather not treat a sick animal to let its weaknesses self-select into culling-by-performance, rather than create crutches that mask weaknesses.  Why do some birds, even in flocks infected with Marek’s disease or Newcastle’s disease, never get sick?  What could we learn if we didn’t vaccinate or medicate, and simply let survivor genetics reveal themselves and become the new breeding stock?

In my nearly 50 years of raising poultry in a non-industrial commercial setting, I’ve seen profound degradation in hardiness, brains, and thrift.  How do we get back to the functional non-drugged chicken?  We don’t do it by continuing to over-protect, vaccinate, medicate, and confine.  If we’re going to create what I call survivor genetics, we have to give the seed stock the conditions we’ll ask of their progeny.  And we can’t coddle.

I know this may sound terribly mean and unloving to some readers who view their chickens as their children and pets.  Folks, I’m glad you’re out there.  But even so, don’t you want a hardy, thrifty, smart pet?  Please appreciate that those of us at a more commercial scale see more nuances and have a broader comparison basis.  While we may not name our chickens, our desire for their health and happiness is no less acute.

That means if we’re planning to raise the birds out on pasture, we want the parents raised out on pasture.  If we want birds smart enough to head for cover when a hawk circles, we need their parents exposed to some predation pressure as well.  I’d be happy for a bird that lays 20 eggs fewer per year if she stays alive in a chilly rain storm or flees when a hawk comes.  Goodness, I’m just looking for birds who know it’s beneficial to find shelter at night.

Breeders can create anything their goals articulate.  The goals of pastured poultry producers are different even from back yard chicken coop operations.

About 15 years ago we had two rogue layers (Rhode Island Reds) who wandered away from the eggmobiles and lived half a mile away from the house for an entire summer.  They never received an ounce of feed, yet thrived and even laid eggs–we found their nest.  But we couldn’t find where they spent the night.  They stayed healthy and productive throughout the season.  A predator never found them.  I remember mentioning at that time:  “If we could take those eggs and hatch them, just think what kind of pasture-perfect birds we’d have.”  We never did, but the idea has intrigued me, especially as I’ve seen what I call the genetic nose-dive even in non-hybrid specialty poultry.

The upshot?  This spring, we purchased six different dual-purpose heavy bird varieties from Murray McMurray Hatchery, 100 each.  We also purchased an incubator.  We’re keeping the cockerels and hope to breed these birds to each other after 2 years–the survivors.  If we keep breeding the old survivors back to each other, I’m hoping that in 20 years we’ll create a Polyface-centric, dark-yolked, grazing, smart, docile, long-lived chicken.  And I really don’t care if she’s purple with pink polka dots.   Here’s to the pastured poultry nutrient dense future.

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Murray McMurray Hatchery Announces New Specialty Coffee Line of Products

Murray McMurray Hatchery will always, first and foremost, be focused on offering the highest quality of chickens with a heritage of strong blood lines to produce the finest chickens in the world.  As in our beginning in 1917, we continue to offer the highest level of customer service to support our enthusiastic customers who share our love for chickens.  As we strive to cultivate and promote that love for chickens, we have been blessed to offer a variety of products that support that interest.  Some products are directly applicable to caring for chickens, where as others are more celebratory of our Murray McMurray Hatchery brand or the homestead lifestyle.  This new product line is one that transcends all customer types and lifestyles, but keeps a tasteful focus on some of our popular chicken breeds.   Products we offer can be the perfect touch to your coop or home.  Our new line of specialty coffee can be used in any occasion for that perfect touch, with taste!

We offer eight varieties of coffees – choose one or choose them all!  Our coffees are custom roasted from coffee cherries that are hand picked.  Only the very best of the crop is harvested to make this one of the finest selections of coffees available!

The Anconas breed is of the Mediterranean class, coming from the area around Ancona, Italy.  Similar to the lustrous black plumage featured on this breed, the Anconas Blend coffee offers the darkest roast level we offer.  If you are truly a dark roast lover this is your coffee.   Origin: Varying Coffees

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The Old English game fowl predating the Modern BB Red Game breed has a historical past to include cockfighting and more. As such, this dark roasted blend of African, Brazilian and Asian coffee has enough kick  to satisfy any espresso or drip brew fan.  This is a very bold but also smooth coffee that is not for the faint hearted!  Very full bodied but roasted just dark enough to smooth out the whole blend.  Origin: This is an African, Brazilian and an Asian coffee, dark roasted to give it just enough kick to satisfy any espresso or drip brew fan!  Click Here

The Buff Orpington’s pure gold color is symbolic of its great value and high quality.  They are stately birds with a quiet, gentle disposition.  The breed is a perfect match for our decaffeinated coffee offering.  When you want a high quality coffee that is smooth and gentle, without the kick, this is the coffee for you.  This decaf is a mild Columbian with clean and delicate cup flavors.  Origin:  Single Origin Columbian    Click Here

  Residing primarily in the Yucatan Peninsula,   this breed of turkey is simply majestic with its bronze and green iridescent colors.  While arguably the most colorful turkey breed, just to the southwest is this Guatemalan coffee, which is some of the most amazing fragrant
and aromatic coffees in the world.  The natural shade and jungle of the Guatemalan highlands is the perfect environment which lends itself to a very nice and very natural full cup.  Antigua is Guatemala’s oldest and most famous coffee growing region.  Antiguan cups are nice bodies, full-on bright coffees with spice. Origin: Single Origin
Guatemala  Click Here

Whether on the farm, in the living room or driving to work, this truly is a coffee that everyone will enjoy!  A classic breakfast blend featuring roasted beans from Mexico, Brazil and Guatemala.  This is a blend you can enjoy all day long.  Our signature blend offers a wonderful aroma with a rich sweetness and a hint of smokiness.  Origin:  This blend is equal portions of our current coffees from Mexico, Brazil and Guatemala.  Roasted to a light roast level. Click Here


The Sumatra breed comes from the island of Sumatra in far off southeast Asia.  Sumatran coffees capture the wild jungle
essence of this tropical Indonesian island.  We cup Sumatran after Sumatra to find that earthy, deep, complex, full-bodied coffee that exhibits low-acidity smoothness.  A great Sumatran is creamy,
sweet, with a touch of butterscotch, spice, and mustiness.  Origin: Single origin Sumatra        Click Here

The Egyptian Fayoumis breed has been raised along the Nile River in Egypt for centuries.  Originating just to the south of there, this coffee holds a special place in Ethiopian culture that transcends that of the coffees from other origin countries.  The majority of the crop does not even leave the country and is drunk with great ceremony by the Ethiopian people.  This blend has a delicate mouth feel with complex fruit acidity, flavors of peach, bergamot (a kind of
orange), and lemon and a rich chocolate aftertaste.   Origin: Ethiopian and Sumatra
Click Here


The Arauacana gets it’s name from the Indian tribe of Chile in South America.  This South American blend of coffee is mild and smooth, an inviting aroma to entice you in the morning.  For our customers who like the complexity of blends, this is a classic full bodied coffee that is smooth as silk. Origin:  This blend is equal amounts of Brazil and Colombia Supremo Roasted to a regular roast.  Click Here





Save $$ with a Coffee and a Mug!

Now you can save approximately 15% by purchasing a pound of our specialty coffee and our Murray McMurray Hatchery logo’d mug together!

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Save even more $$ with a Coffee, Mug and our New Book!

Wow!  Save 30% with this great package that combines one
pound of our specialty coffee, our Murray McMurray Hatchery
Coffee Mug, and our new book “Chickens in Five Minutes a
Day”!  Click Here Now!



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2013 Summer Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to our top six winners of this year’s Summer Photo Contest Winners!


1st Place Winner



2nd Place Winner



3rd Place Winner



4th Place Winner



5th Place Winner



6th Place Winner


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Video to Introduce our New Line of Specialty Coffees

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New Product Line in Merchandise

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Announcing the Murray McMurray Hatchery 2013 Summer Photo Contest!

Announcing the Murray McMurray Hatchery 2013 Summer photo contest! your photos until July 27th!

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Guineas and Peafowl Specials! Limited Time/Limited Availability

Guineas and Peafowl can make a great addition to your home! We have a great special on a few assortments of both going on for a limited time! This is a great savings!   Three weeks only while supplies last….

Guinea Special:

Peafowl Special:

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