Lucy Crider and her family live on their 22-acre farm in Sale Creek that they acquired in 2009. “My husband and I both grew up in Anderson County near Knoxville; we both had a farming background. My mother raised Arabian horses and we had a garden. My husband’s family always had a garden, put up food and used it to supplement their food bill. When we met we just always knew we wanted a farm,” Lucy insists.
After getting married, they started looking at farm land - just as a hobby.
“We went to Cloudland Canyon, we went to Brockdale Mountain and it finally got to the point where we were going to buy. We started looking at property in Sale Creek. One day my husband was out with a realtor and told me, ‘I have found the place’,” Lucy recalls.
“We raise eggs, milk, beef, chickens, bees and fruit and we work a small garden for ourselves. We do sell the surplus eggs and produce through the summer. If we have surplus vegetables or surplus fruit we will bring that to market – but we just mainly sell the eggs,” Lucy says. “I also started making goat’s milk soaps and lotions.”
During the interview, Lucy’s two sons were present and helped their mother answer questions. Nine-year-old Jack and seven-year-old Jacob are very involved and very knowledgeable about farm life.
When asked if there were anything interesting or unique that they raise or grow, Jack pipes in “We do bees and we are not afraid to get stung - that’s unique.”
The hens Lucy uses primarily for producing eggs are Golden Comets. “They are a sex-link chicken, which means that immediately when it comes out of the egg, you can tell if it is going to be a hen or a rooster by the color of its feathers,” she says.
Jack imparts, “If they are white they are a rooster and if they are brown and white they are a hen.”
The chickens that are raised for meat are Cornish Cross.
“Our chickens are able to be natural in their environment,” Lucy says. “If they are in a commercial environment they are either in a really small cage or they have so many chickens together that they just can’t spread out. Dust bathing is a way for them to naturally clean their feathers and keep the bugs off,” Lucy states.
Jack adds, “I have seen a chicken truck before and they are in these little cages and they have to crouch down to walk – it’s sad.”
Lucy’s love for chickens started with her grandmother raising chickens. “As a little girl, I helped her collect eggs and feed the chickens. I remember when I was about nine or 10 I wanted chickens for my birthday. I didn’t realize until we built our pen on this farm, what a huge sacrifice that was,” Lucy admits.
“It’s not so much the cost of the chickens, it’s the wire and the fence post and spending a weekend going out there and digging a trench to lay wire so that it is dog proof,” she conveys.
Other than the dogs – what predators are a concern?
Jack answers, “Hawks and rattle snakes and then chicken snakes – I don’t think they will actually hurt the chicken but I think they just will eat the egg.”
Lucy adds, “Possums and raccoons …those are probably the ones we have to watch the most. You can tell how a chicken is killed and know what type of predator you have. With a coyote they just take the whole bird. We don’t have trouble with coyotes around here,” Lucy insists.
Jack interjects excitedly, “And if it’s a weasel, they will just bite their neck and their head will be off and they suck their blood out!” Lucy confirms Jacks information but says that they do not see weasels at the farm.
Lucy continues, “With possums or raccoons, they will just tear out their neck, because they want their food sack. When the chickens eat food, it goes into a little sack called the crop, located inside their neck,” she informs.
A crop’s main function is to store food. It continuously supplies small amounts of the stored food to the stomach of the bird.
This is the most active part of the digestive system of a chicken. There are two parts to the stomach of a bird. The first part is the glandular portion of the stomach. This part secretes digestive juices which break down the food. The gizzard contains gravel, which works alongside with muscles in grinding up food.
“Those predators that kill for the crop are not meat eaters,’ Lucy maintains, “they just want the grain that is in their crop and they will kill them for that.”
Jack divulges, “We have seen it when we killed chickens. This one time, we cut it open and you could see the grain in there and it was still dry!”
Jacob, who had been quietly petting the pet cat named ‘Chloe’ while flinging excess cat fur at his mother to gauge her reaction, chimes in - “And one time a chicken made a squeaky sound,” he says and then turns bashful.
When asked if there were any funny stories to recall on the farm, Jack – as if in a classroom, raises his hand. “This is like, the funniest thing to me… we do bees and we were with my dad and a bee stung me on my bee glove but it didn’t go all the way through. Its sting-thing was stuck to the glove and it was trying to fly and going, ‘e-e-e-e-e-e…’,” Jack imitates with a high-pitched buzzing sound. “I was just watching it and it was so funny!” he shakes his head chuckling.
Once again, he is excited to share this impressive wealth of knowledge he has learned on the farm. “I have never been stung so I don’t know if I am allergic to bees …so that is the scary part but it’s fun. I have seen a colony and I have seen larva. And I have also seen queen cells but we always take them out because then you have to break apart the hive.” He adds matter-of-factly, “Because two queens can’t be in one hive!”
As far as any community effort or event, Lucy can’t recall anything until Jacob shyly reminds her, “We did something with Boy Scouts,” Lucy nods and Jack admits, “We used to - but I just don’t go because we didn’t get to go to Lake Winnie and stuff…” Lucy laughs a little uneasily and tries to explain her son’s honesty. “We just got more involved in church and we just haven’t had a lot of time for everything.”
Jacob wanted to tell a funny story. “I was going out to herd the cows and I was walking up there, I thought nothing was there and then this giant turkey came flying out and I was scared to death! He laughs with his eyes full of delight. “It was a wild turkey,” he gets bashful again and Lucy restates the story.
“The boys help to herd the cows in – they are still being milk fed so they have to come in to get their milk out of a pail - and Jacob just dashed out into the pasture just like he normally would and it just came right up in front of him,” she gets tickled recalling the moment.
Jack says, “We have a turkey that is ours – we call him Big Tom and this guy is huge! He will fluff out his feathers and stuff and he will actually peck you! We have this big aluminum shovel to clean out chicken poop so we always go in there with that and the first time, he kept pecking at my dad and my dad scared him away and he kept coming back at him like 20 times,” Jack laughs.
Lucy tells, “We have a small incubator and we took that in for the first grade at North Hamilton County Elementary. Ms. Rodger’s science class studied the life cycle of a chicken. They had slides that would go along with observing. They would follow along with week one and week two and what you would see inside the egg if you were able and then they eventually got to see the egg crack and see the chick when it came out.”
Jack says, “We might do rabbits or pigs later on but we don’t know yet.”
Lucy suggests that sheep may be another idea. The goats they raise are La Mancha goats. Jack says, “The story is they have ears like this,” he motions with his hands, “and it was shriveled up on their heads. People bred them as smaller ears, smaller ears and smaller ears til you get this little bitty-like wrinkled up ear like this,” and he motions again with his hands, showing the ear size.
Why would they do that?
“I don’t know,” Jack says bewildered.
Lucy instructs, “La Mancha goats are a breed from South America and they just don’t have big ears. Jacob is interested in getting goats like the Saanen that have big ears.”
Do you have fainting goats?
Jack shakes his head and says, “That would be Janet’s goats- you can go up to one of them and spook them and they will just roll down a hill,” he gestures. Jacob giggles and quietly says, “I want to do that…”
Lucy concludes the story of her farm with telling that she sells to St. Alban’s Farmer’s Market in Hixson and Scenic City On-line Farmer’s Market. Jacob, still thinking about the fainting goat interrupts, “Mom, are there any fainting cats?” His mother instructs, “No – no fainting cats.”
Jacob giggles, “It would be fun if there was,” he says stroking Chloe’s fur.
Last question for the two young farmers – ‘which came first, the chicken or the egg?’
Jacob says, “Chicken” and Jack says “The egg”… the world may never know.
Contact Crider Creek Farm at email@example.com