Raising backyard chickens for 15 years was the sum of Tiffany Holbrook’s experience when she and her husband, Jason, purchased Wise Acre Farm in Windsor in 2018. Since then, the couple has raised 2,000 laying hens a year to supply not only local restaurants, but also their 24/7 egg vending machine, which, during pandemic-related supply-chain disruptions, has helped keep area residents in eggs. “We operate extremely transparently,” says Holbrook. “I want people to see how healthy the chickens are and where their eggs come from.”
5 a.m. My alarm goes off, and by 5:30, I’m in my home office doing paperwork, email, social media posts. If it’s a day when I’m expecting a shipment of chicks, I get a call between 5:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. to pick them up at the post office.
7 a.m. I get my son up — he’s 13 so he’s self-sufficient — and bring him to school. Jason works full-time at Chalk Hill Estate in Healdsburg, so beforehand, he goes to the farm and takes care of the specialty-breed chickens: Frizzles, Polish, Silkies. We also have a flock of special-needs chickens: partially blind, permanent limp, digestion problems. He feeds and waters them and then goes to work.
8:15 a.m. If I’m picking up chicks, I take them over to the farm. We inspect each one and put it in the brooder. It takes about five months for chicks to start laying, so we’re constantly raising new ones, which gives us a variety of egg sizes.
10 a.m. I bring fermented feed and dry grain to the main flock of about 1,500 laying hens on the 15-acre pasture. We have good egg production this time of year.
11 a.m. Chickens eat the grass down, so I move our four mobile coops to fresh grass around the pasture using our ’73 Chevy 350 with custom fabrication for tracks. (Our pasture gets pretty muddy.) The chickens know to run alongside the monster truck to grab the grasshoppers as I’m driving!
2 p.m. I’ll check on the chicks, sit with them, hang out for a little bit, make sure they’re OK and no one’s acting lethargic. I spend time with the animals so I can pick out when someone’s behaving oddly.
5 p.m. Evening chores start two to three hours before sunset. After my husband gets off work, we do a second round of fermented feed, collect eggs, and close the nesting boxes.
My husband is my egg washer, so he runs them under water; we’re more efficient than machines. As he’s washing, I’m prepping egg cartons. We hand-weigh each egg and distribute it by weight according to regulations. Once all the eggs are sorted, some go in the cartons, some are set aside for restaurants, some go to our vending machine.
7 p.m. I go home and start dinner. Once the chickens are all roosted and tucked in, my husband will open the boxes back up to feed the livestock guardian dogs, who keep watch for predators — skunks, possums, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes. We keep a few roosters to help guard the chickens during the day. Same with the geese, who are great with hawk alerts.
No day is the same; that’s why I love my job. And happy animals produce good food. If they aren’t happy, they aren’t laying eggs.
Try Tiffany Holbrook’s eggs at the Wise Acre Farm vending machine, 631 Arata Lane, Windsor. 707-480-1900, wiseacrewindsor.com