1 Every afternoon at three o'clock, the chickens, roosters, and guinea fowl gather and wait for Phurba to come and feed them.
2 This is Phurba Sherpa, carrying the basket for gathering eggs.
3 The chickens are free to move about the fenced-in areas throughout the day. The fencing keeps predators out and the chickens in.
4 The top is also fenced, making the chicken yard quite secure.
5 Twice a day, early morning and late afternoon, Phurba feeds the birds cracked corn. They also eat plenty of vegetable and fruit matter.
6 He divides the cracked corn among rubberized feed bins in the yard.
7 I started raising chickens many years ago, after visiting a commercial egg-laying farm in Massachusetts. I was so disturbed by what I saw - the cruel, inhumane conditions of the facility - that I vowed to always have my own coop.
8 Since then, I've always had enough egg-laying hens to provide me and my family with fresh, nutritious, organic eggs on a year-round basis.
9 At my Bedford farm, there are four coops that house more than a hundred chickens - a mélange of types and breeds that are really interesting to look at and fascinating to study.
10 This colorful fellow is a Japanese Bantam Black Tailed Buff rooster and the hen next to him is a Blue Silkie Bantam, which lays white eggs.
11 Inside the coops, Phurba fills the hanging feeders with organic layer feed. It provides the hens with protein, which helps them lay strong and healthy eggs.
12 He also adds a scoop of crushed oyster shell, which provides egg-layers with the calcium they need to produce nice, hard-shelled eggs.
13 Plus a handful of poultry grit - Insoluble crushed granite, which is an effective product for aiding proper digestion. Since chickens don't have teeth, they need something to help them break their food down for digestion.
14 Like the chickens, the eggs, too, are varied in size and color.
15 Because the feed is carefully designed for maximum, healthy production all year long, they all have brilliant yellow yolks, thick whites, and hard shells.
16 If a hen is still in a nesting box, Phurba gently reaches below her to retrieve the eggs. Sometimes a hen will give a good peck, so it's a good idea to wear gloves.
17 I wonder if this Silver Laced Cochin had laid her egg yet? By the way, Phurba gives the coops a thorough cleaning every Friday and lays down all new wood shavings.
18 In addition to the chickens, there are also 12 guinea fowl, which make quite a bit of noise when they feel intimidated.
19 Native to Africa, guinea fowl are known for traveling in large, gregarious flocks. These 12 certainly stick together.
20 Chickens lay according to the amount of light available. Hens' ovaries are triggered by longer hours of natural daylight, so egg production increases during the warmer months.
21 What an amazing yield!
22 Phurba also rinses out the outdoor water dishes and refills them with clean water.
23 He does the same for the indoor galvanized waterers.
24 The cover goes on.
25 The waterer is placed on top of a heated metal water base to keep the water from freezing.
26 The pair of Pomeranian geese scream for Phurba not to forget them. These geese are very protective of the flock and they will charge and attack intruders. They have a mean peck.
27 Phurba had developed a bond with the geese - he feeds them, after all.
28 The flock enters the coops as it begins to grow dark. When all are inside, the doors are shut and securely latched until morning. One can't be too safe when there are hungry raccoons and coyotes around.
29 Phurba transports the eggs to the house.
30 GK sits at the kitchen door and watches all the farm activities.
31 Laura Acuna, my long-time housekeeper, cleans the eggs every day.
32 She starts by dry cleaning each egg, buffing off spots of chicken manure and wood shavings.
33 Occasionally, an egg will break in the nesting box and some of the yolk may get on other eggs. When this happens, Laura uses warm water to remove it.
34 A bowl of beautiful, fresh, organic eggs