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Wise Acre Farm seeks help during outbreak

Sunday, July 20th, 2014 | Posted by
A curious hen looks at the camera at Wise Acre Farm. (Photo: Bryan Boyd)

A curious chicken looks at the camera at Wise Acre Farm. (Photo: Bryan Boyd)

Healdsburg-Windsor area Wise Acre Farm has opened a donation campaign to keep the farm going during the outbreak of a respiratory illness among the 1,000 hens currently on the farm.

Owner Bryan Boyd opened the farm for business in 2012, after running a hobby farm for a year. He farms goats and chickens and has subscribers for his community supported agriculture vegetable boxes. Until recently, Boyd also sold eggs to Shelton’s Market  in Healdsburg.

The farm usually houses 1,400 hens that rotate through pastures  in mobile chicken coops. The hens do not appear ill, and Boyd said he didn’t know something was wrong until egg production dropped dramatically and the quality of eggs diminished.

He spent weeks talking with more experienced farmers, and while many of them said his hens were aging and he needed to add younger hens, he believed that couldn’t be the only challenge. He then sold 400 of the oldest hens to people to use for pets and food.

Boyd said he is awaiting a firm diagnosis from University of California Davis, but believes the hens have bronchitis. Although he believes the eggs are safe to eat, he has suspended all sales pending the news from Davis.

Chicken bronchitis can be carried on the wind from neighboring farms, come in on the tires of vehicles or even on visitors’ shoes. Boyd’s challenge is keeping the farm operating while  not earning money from egg production.

The hens are likely to make a full recovery, but it will take six weeks before production is back to normal.

Boyd feeds his hens organic grains and greens from the garden, as well as other produce. He plans to control any potential for future outbreaks by raising his own fodder and investing in a hydroponic system to raise his own nutrient-dense greens. He wants to move away from soy-based feed, though he has been careful to source his feed organically and as locally as possible, including leftovers from two Windsor food banks.

Boyd also plans to create an insectary to grow grubs, nutritious meals for the hens. “By growing my own food, I expect their immune systems to be stronger,” he said. “This is a sustainable farm. When the hens reach the end of their productive life, they go to feed people in another way.”

He seeks $8,000 to keep the farm going for the next couple of months. Cost to feed one hen per day is 10 cents, so just the cost of feed runs about $100 a day.

Boyd announced his campaign on CropMobster on July 10 and raised $1,175 the first week. To learn more about it, visit Facebook or call 291-9913. Checks can be dropped off or sent to 631 Arata Lane, Windsor 95493.

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