1 My chicken yard is made up of four identical hen houses. The large yard surrounding the houses is fenced in on top and sides to keep out predators, like fox and raccoon. There's also an open air yard that the fowl enjoy exploring during the daylight hours.
2 Each week day at 3:00, Phurba, who cares for the chickens, visits the coops to collect the eggs.
3 The hens wait anxiously for Phurba's arrival because, once the eggs are collected, it's also feeding time.
4 I started raising chickens after visiting a commercial egg-laying farm in Massachusetts.
5 I was so disturbed by what I saw - the cruel, inhumane conditions of the facility - that I vowed to always have my own coop, with enough egg-laying hens to provide me and my family with fresh, nutritious, organic eggs on a year-round basis.
6 As my needs evolved, I enlarged the chicken yards and built more coops. This feeder contains egg-laying pellets, which provides the proper nourishment to form healthy eggs.
7 These four coops house more than a hundred chickens - a mélange of types and breeds that are really interesting to look at and fascinating to study.
8 The eggs, too, are varied in size and color, and are also interesting to look at.
9 Because the feed is carefully designed for maximum, healthy production all year long, the eggs all have brilliant yellow yolks, thick whites, and hard shells.
10 I raise chickens for the eggs, but I also like that they allow me to practice animal husbandry on a modest, manageable, and relatively inexpensive scale.
11 In addition to the hens and roosters, there are twelve Guinea fowl, and two Pomeranian geese that look over the entire flock. The geese are very, very protective.
12 The yield for that day was forty-five eggs!
13 Phurba sets the basket outside the chicken yard and out of harms way.
14 A few of my favorite breeds on the farm include Maran, which lays dark-brown eggs; White-crested black Polish; Buff Orpington; Blue Silkie bantam; Blue Andalusian; Mille-fleur bantam; Araucana, which lays bluish-green eggs; and Australorp.
15 This is cracked corn, what the chickens have been waiting all day for.
16 The chickens also eat a rich diet of vegetable and fruit scraps every single day, which they love. I bring them home from our company's test kitchens in NY City and from my daughter's prolific home kitchen.
17 But their favorite treat is cracked corn!
18 The geese are squawking at Phurba.
19 Many more people are discovering the joys of raising backyard poultry, which has led to an increase in national magazine, newspaper, and television coverage.
20 Every time I read something about a new breed or an undiscovered tradition, I find myself wanting to learn more, and to acquire more and more different breeds.
21 Each year I order forty or so birds from hatcheries to reinvigorate the flock with young blood. As the older hens and cockerels outlive their service, we have a coq au vin or a fricassee dinner.
22 With his daily chicken chores complete, Phurba heads to the house to deliver the freshly laid eggs.
23 The joys of farming come not just from the production of delicious, safe, wholesome foods, but from knowing that the animals that provide us with the food are treated with respect and care, and are given the proper environment in which to thrive.
24 Each day, Phurba reaches in the kitchen door and places the basket of eggs on this counter.
25 My housekeeper, Laura Acuna, dry wipes the eggs clean using an abrasive cloth.
26 Eggs are brought to the office regularly to use in our test kitchens and to share with the staff.