Covid Brought Our Chickens?

My husband and I have a small “hobby farm” where we have lived for over a decade with our now teenagers.  We have enjoyed having space to have a few animals and space to grow a few crops and garden.  The farm projects have evolved over the years based on our interests and needs.  However, none of the changes were as dramatic as the ones that were stimulated by the pandemic and then the subsequent supply chain problems.

When the Covid 19 virus hit and lock-downs went into effect our family made a number of adjustments as did many families to stay safe and to follow new health restrictions.  Work, school, shopping and social activities all changed.   Most of us have stories of how we and our families experienced pandemic lockdowns and endured the shortage of supplies and goods resulting from the supply chain problems.  We felt very lucky to have our roomy house in the country so we at least had room to “spread out” even while we were technically isolating and social distancing.

Part of our family’s changes became more than the short-term changes, though!  As we discussed our challenges of finding staples such as milk and eggs in stores on some occasions, my husband recalled that he would still like to expand the scope of our “hobby farm”.  He was especially interested in chickens and producing our own eggs.  The following was a summary of the brief exchange that followed:

My response was a good humored (I hope) “Well, if we are ever going to do it, now would be the time.”

“So, you would be okay if we got some chicks to raise for eggs?”

“Maybe, but what about when lock-down is over?  We are gone sometimes for family visits, vacations, and kids’ activities.  We would need a consistent plan to have them taken care of.  A partner or something?”

“Okay .”

Ten minutes later, we had a part-time neighbor partner.

24-hours later we had a dozen chicks in a cardboard box under a lamp in the garage.  Later this graduated to a dog crate with a cardboard liner and bedding.  Meanwhile, my husband started building a coop out of scrap lumber.

There was a learning curve of course, but I must admit, this has been one of the easier “experiments” we have undertaken on our hobby farm.  My husband did the “heavy lifting” building the coop and still does the bulk of the care, so he deserves most of the credit.  But we all enjoy using the eggs and benefit from them.  Our partner enjoys them too, and we love being able to share occasionally with family and friends.

So, what were the bumps or lessons of this project?  Probably the biggest one was the coop.  While it was amazing for us to have someone in the family who had the skills to build our first coop, he now thinks he might have built it too well.  My husband designed it to be strong to protect the chickens from critters and the winter winds.  He also built it on runners so he could pull it from one area to another in our yard using the idea of the mobile “chicken tractor” but using our actual tractor.  It’s a well built chicken house, but it turned out heavier and less mobile than anticipated.  There is more to that story, but it is probably better told by the builder himself, my husband!

We have learned so many other things!  While there is routine care, chickens really are relatively low maintenance.  They really don’t take a lot of space, unless you have a larger flock.  Feeders and waterers are easy to use.  Fresh eggs keep well much longer than I ever knew, even unrefrigerated if you don’t wash them.  I had no idea most of the world feels it is better not to wash your eggs so they keep longer!

Warning:  I need to note that food safety guidelines in our country require refrigeration of eggs and egg products sold.  So, I won’t advocate not to refrigerate your eggs!  Certainly, I didn’t try it until I had read and researched it!  There are important guidelines that need to be observed in handling farm fresh eggs, and all eggs, to prevent some serious health risks whether you refrigerate them or not, including salmonella or even just spoiled eggs. I am a broken record with my kids!  Don’t eat raw eggs, break and inspect each egg before you use it, wash your hands before and after you handle eggs, once refrigerated you have to keep them refrigerated, etc.  Probably nothing new here!  Certainly not if you ask my kids!

Best surprise for me?  A big batch of eggs is one of the fastest, healthy ways to feed a group of hungry teens on short notice!  Maybe one of the cheaper ones, too!  The teens may even do the cooking themselves on occasion.

Another fun discovery was that our garden weeds increase egg production.  That is a win-win for me for sure!   It makes it more fun for me to pull a few handfuls of weeds along the garden rows on the way to gather eggs.  The hens are so excited to see me, they all get off the nests to enjoy the treats making it easier to get eggs, and eggs production usually increases!  And, it helps clean up my garden.

So, I am a chicken advocate.  Not everyone has a place for chickens, or the schedule that would allow them to take care of them.  The biggest challenges for us were the initial set-up and then the schedule changes to ensure we could take good care of them.  For some households it might just be that “practical hobby” that has a great payoff.  What started for us as a response to pandemic shortages turned out well for us.  It is also a project that some of our friends have more interest in as egg prices continue to rise!

Our next “hobby farm” addition was a bit larger and a bit more complex than the chickens.  And, of course, the learning curve was even bigger than for chickens!  That is a future story!

P.S. if you are thinking about starting with your own chickens, be sure to check out our Natural Gramma Chicken Tractors at  Based on experience they are much easier than building one!  And, they are easier to move!

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Greenworks Day On Friday, May 19, 2023

FARM AND HOMESTEAD EQUIPMENT, LLC would like to invite you and your friends to join us at our new sales facility for Greenworks Day On Friday, May 19, 2023 From 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.

121 Osage Executive Circle

Byrnes Mill, Missouri


The Greenworks factory representative will be on site to demonstrate Greenworks Commercial electric equipment and to answer questions.

Equipment demonstrations


Door prizes

In addition to the Greensworks equipment featured we welcome you to check out our other lines of equipment and products available through Farm and Homestead Equipment.   Some of the additional lines available include:

  • Solis tractors
  • Grillo walk-behind tractors and attachments
  • Farm-Maxx
  • Walker Mowers
  • Country Clipper Mowers
  • Exaco Green Houses
  • Natural Gramma Chicken Tractors

Also, please visit our website at

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We’re Just Getting started.

Farm and Homestead Equipment is a brand new business.  We’re just getting started and would like to introduce our business to the community and potential customers.  We are a family owned business with a mission to meet the unique challenges of small farms, homesteads and land managers in our community.  Our goal is to provide unique and quality equipment for both individuals and organizations in our community.   

The origin of the business was based on our own search for equipment to meet some of the unique challenges of our own small “hobby farm.”  Our family is fortunate that we have a small acreage where we raise animals, garden, and produce small hay and grain crops.  While we are definitely far from “self-sufficient” and purchase food, farm supplies, etc. from local grocery stores and many other businesses, we appreciate being able to grow and produce significant portions of our own food.  We enjoy the fresh food in the summer as well as home preserved fruits and vegetables, meat and eggs throughout the year.

The Covid pandemic and supply chain problems it created, followed by the widespread drought of last year really drove home for us the importance of “doing more where you are”.   And with the resources we have on our small farm we have strived to do just that.  Most years we produce enough hay for our animals, however, this year our herd was a bit larger, our hay was not as productive as we hoped, and it was hard to buy hay locally.  As my husband mowed the grass around our fruit trees for hay, it was clear the standard size mower, rake and baler were going to leave valuable hay in several tight spaces and between trees it could not fit between.  And, we saw it as a waste – and a shame.  We did eventually find enough hay to purchase to get through the winter, but it was over an hour drive from us thus costing more in fuel, time and frustration.  Others faced the same concern with hay shortages and, of course, there are many, many other challenges based on the size, type and focus of the operation.  But it was one of our motivators to research better options for our small operation.

My husband’s research into smaller and adaptable equipment peaked our interest further and expanded our focus.  It appears that there is an increasing need for more options to address the unique challenges that both individuals and organizations are encountering in small farming, hobby farming, homesteading and just wanting to do more with the land.  There are many unique equipment options, beyond the small hay equipment that help address small homestead and urban farming challenges, and we find them very exciting.  For example, a two-wheel, walk-behind tractor with diverse attachments designed specifically for small farms, difficult terrain, and specialized tasks.  This option might better meet the needs of a small operation at a lower cost while still providing more flexibility due to the many attachments available. 

We started on this business journey by trying to find equipment better suited to our needs and to make better use of the resources on our land.  Now it has also become a challenge to find and offer unique, quality equipment options to others so they too can do more with their land and resources.  Whether it is maximizing limited space or finding ways to manage larger spaces easier and more efficiently, we are hoping to be part of meeting that challenge.  

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The Story of Farm and Homestead Equipment, LLC

For years, while working in a major Midwest city and its suburbs we dreamed of living a simpler, more wholesome life.  The vision for some members of our family always seemed to include a homestead built in the middle of 100 acres of woods.  The plan included harvesting timber and building a log home, shop, and barn.  All powers with solar and wind.  The ideal piece of land would have a spring and / or creek that flows year-round to provide fresh water and hydroelectric power.  A 3-to-5-acre lake would provide for recreation and raising fish.  The areas logged for construction of buildings and the lake would become fields for hay and pasture for miniature livestock.  Of course, a log chicken coop, and a dozen hens would fill out the livestock line up.  Finally, there would be a berry patch, a large garden, and an orchard.  

In the summer of 2011, the dream began to materialize when our good fortune permitted the purchase of 20 acres of river bottom land, most of which does not flood.  The property included a nice conventional home and shop.  There is no timber, save for overgrown fence rows on two borders.  And no lake.  But, there was  a 1/3 acre pond stocked with Bass, Bluegill and Channel Catfish.  Not a bad substitute!

Our first improvement was building a barn.  Using a prefabricated 12’x24’ building with a loft that we already owned.  After leveling the ideal spot for the barn, the building was moved into place and anchored with earth auger anchors.  Then a 12-foot lean-to addition was built on one side and one end.  The result was a nice-looking, very functional barn with a 12/24 closed section for storing hay, feed and tach and a 12’x36’ and 12’x12’ area for livestock.

Next came the building of a 1-acre and 2-acre paddock.  The fences were built with steel T-post and 4-wire electric fence.  Driving T posts in a river bottom field in the wet spring is easy work!  Then we were ready for a pony for the kids and a horse for ourselves.   Fodder for a later story!

The next spring, 2013, came the 40’x80’ garden, a blackberry patch, nine grape vines and 24 nut and fruit tree orchard.

Of course, the grounds required maintenance.  The first purchase was a zero-turn Simplicity Citation mower and a Stihl weed trimmer.  Next came the need for hay.  The previous owner of our property allowed a neighbor to harvest the hay on the 16 acres of field as they had no livestock.  For the fist year or two we allow the hay harvest arrangement to continue for 1/3 of the yield.  This yielded plenty for our horse and pony.    

And who can live on 20 acres and not need (want) a tractor?  Not us!  The search began and soon we had a 70ish era 65 horse power David-Bradley diesel with a trip-bucket loader and an old 5 foot Massey Ferguson brush hog.  The price was $4,000.  The tractor was OK, but the trip-bucket wasn’t.  We are still using the brush hog.  A backhoe seemed like it would be useful on the homestead and a loader with a hydraulically operated bucket was a must.  An early 60’s model International 2400 series tractor with loader and backhoe appeared to be the solution.  The loader and backhoe were adapted to a farm tractor wit 3 pt hitch and PTO.  The idea was to use the tractor as a farm tractor and attach / remove the backhoe as needed.  What a learning opportunity!  It is not easy to remove a subframe mounted backhoe, it is not designed as “quick-attach” and even harder to reinstall it.   After more than a thousand dollars in repairs the tractor was sold, in favor of purchasing a tractor to work with, rather than on.

Not everyone that homesteads continues to work at their “day job”.  But I did, which allowed us to “ bite the bullet” and we bought a 2016 Mahindra 1526.  What a relief.  It started every time and met most of the needs on the homestead.  When a backhoe was needed, one was rented from the local equipment rental store.  

Back to the hay.  Our equine population grew from two to five.  We adopted a miniature Siberian donkey in need of a good home and purchased two more horses.  Now, we needed more hay.  The solution was to have a custom hay baler bale our hay.  They provided the fertilizer and cut and baled the hay on “halves”.  This provided enough hay to meet our needs and worked well until our small acreage continued to migrate to the end of the custom balers To Do List.  Two years in a row, our hay harvest was put off into July when the hay was practically burned up and of poor food value.  At that point, the decision was made to bale our own hay.  We found a 1969 John Deere gas tractor, a  very nice John Deere 330 4’x4’ round, string-tie baler, and a not so good looking, but mechanically sound New Holland 256 hay rake for $12,500.  We also needed some small square bales and purchased a decent John Deere 24T baler for $850 plus $150 freight.  After $1,500 dollars in parts and service, we had a good, dependable square baler.  We have been baling our own hay since then.  The flexibility, independence and sense of accomplishment made the concept a winner in our minds and could have been cost effective, or nearly so.  And, we are always first on the To Do List!  However, as things usually go, at least one piece of the old equipment broke down nearly every time we made hay.  The solution, a larger, newer tractor with enough horsepower to turn the JD 330 round baler.  Well guess what, it turned out to be a lemon and after $6,000 of repairs and addition of 3rd function, we sold the tractor.  Thanks to the effects of Covid on the supply chain, we nearly recuperated our loss.

Each and every time the acquisition of a tractor and/or piece of equipment was contemplated,  the two wheel walking (walk-behind) tractors and miniature hay making attachments  and a subcompact tractor and miniature hay making attachments were considered.  The appeal was magnetic, but the cost seemed to be too high.  The moral of this story?  Had I stuck with the compact tractor and miniature hay making implements or a two-wheel walk-behind with hay making attachments, or even both, we would have been money ahead and enjoyed our hay making a great deal more.  Our experience led us to want to share the concept of miniature farm equipment with our fellow hobby farmers and homesteaders.  In fact, anyone that cares for a small to medium sized tract of land, be it a large lot, an estate, a sports park, arena, City, School, or professional land care managers can benefit from using this type of equipment. 

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New Product Line: Grillo walk-behind two wheel tractor! 

We are excited to announce our newest product line: the Grillo walk-behind two wheel tractor!  This class of machine is also known as the walking tractor.  For those of you who are not familiar with these awesome pieces of equipment, you are in for a treat.  Essentially, they are a wheel driven power source with a power take/off and are used to power dozens of attachments.  They have fully reversible handlebars that allow a single unit to power front mounted attachments for blading, raking, mowing, sweeping  and snow blowing.  And rear mounted attachments for soil working. 

The beauty of these jewels is their affordability, small size, maintenance of a single engine, durability and incredible versatility.  You can garden, maintain your property, make hay, split wood, wash your car or house, or even power your refrigerator, freezer and well during a power outage.  And much more, with just one machine and the appropriate attachments.  We also offer a full line of attachments.

In the US, the two wheel tractor was introduced by Gravely in 1911.  By the 1970s , large-scale commercial farming nearly put an end to the small farm and the need for small equipment.  The last walking tractor made in the USA was sold in 2014.  

In Europe, the small, family farm continued to thrive and so did the walking tractor.  At one time, not so long ago, there were more than a dozen manufacturers of walking tractors in Italy, alone.  The Italians continue to lead the world market for this equipment.  Their tractors are known for quality and long service life.

You guessed it; the Grillo walking tractor is made in Cesena, Italy.  And the company has 60+ years of experience manufacturing these machines.  Most attachments are manufactured in Italy, as well.  Having said that, the U. S. distributor for the tractors and attachments manufactures several, high quality, attachments here in the states..  These tractors are easy to operate, reliable and if well maintained, and will last 20 to 30 years, or longer in a non-commercial setting.  They are available with Honda and Kohler gas engines and Kohler diesel engines.

A Grillo 110D with enough attachments to meet most needs on the hobby farm will cost about the same as a subcompact tractor with no attachments.  The tractor and attachments can be stored in your garage or a small shed.

If you would like to learn more about our Grillo line, please email or call.  We would love to hear from you!

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