We’ve all heard the reports about horrific chicken farms, birds living their entire lives in tiny boxes, fed unnatural foods, for the sole purpose of laying large numbers of eggs. And the stories of old eggs touted as “farm fresh,” sold far beyond their sell by dates. It’s enough to make a person build a chicken coop in the backyard. Or, if that’s not possible, find a local egg man.
It required some time and effort. For awhile, I took my chances on finding fresh eggs at farmers’ markets. But by the time I got there on a Saturday morning, the eggs were often sold out.
Then I discovered that a friend of mine from the gym sells eggs. How convenient.
Gary Brown lives three miles down the road from me on five acres. He cares for 70 chickens, plus a slew of baby chicks. “I’m from the country," he says. "I grew up with it.” Gary, originally from Singer, has lived in southwest Louisiana his whole life.
Gary feeds his chickens twice a day . . .
. . . and collects the eggs each afternoon. The number of eggs laid daily depends on the time of year. In winter and spring, the hens might lay up to four dozen. In the heat of summer, only about one to one and a half dozen. The chickens roost at night in the hen house, and roam outside, free range, during the day. Gary buys his feed from a local farmer, so depending on how the farmer grows his corn, rice, and other chicken scratch, I’d like to think the eggs are “organic,” but more important to me is knowing that the eggs are fresh and not from a disease-ridden fowl prison.
One of the biggest problems in chicken farming is dealing with predators. Fox, coyote, raccoons, opossums, owls, and chicken hawks. Gary tells a story of the time he once collected the eggs in the dark. He stuck his hand into a nest to pull out an egg, and grabbed a black snake instead. He once scared off an owl by setting off firecrackers. He’s shot raccoons and relocated chicken hawks (they’re endangered and thus protected.) A hurricane fence keeps out the fox and coyote. In case a predator sneaks in during the night, Gary keeps a baby monitor in the coop.
Does Gary eat the chickens? “I can sell a chicken at auction for $17.00, and buy a fryer from the butcher for $3.00.”
In addition to the chickens, Gary keeps a couple of turkeys . . .
a bunch of ducks and a peacock . . .
an emu . . .
two dogs, a black cat . . .
and a horse named Cinnamon.
From the Egg Man’s farm . . . to my kitchen.