Job description: Farmer
Which came first? The chicken or the egg? OK, you know I just wanted to say that. Now let me ask a real question…Or maybe that is a real question to a chicken farmer? What do you prioritize when it comes to bringing the very best eggs to market?
HAHAHA, I am surprised you are the first person to ask me that! Animal husbandry is always what comes first at our farm. The difference in an egg from a hen that lives on pasture as opposed to a hen that lives indoors (free-range and cage-free hens still live in overcrowded buildings) is extremely noticeable. Allowing our hens to live on pasture and graze on fresh grass and insects creates an egg with firm whites and yolks, which stand tall when cracked open. In addition to a proper diet and lifestyle, turnaround is extremely important. We will not sell an egg that is over a week old. Fresh is always best with a perishable product.
Do you have a single favorite type of chicken and/or egg and if so, why?
My favorite breed is a Barred Rock Hen. They are docile, can be friendly, and great layers!
Wise Acre chickens have other friends on the farm. What else you got?
- 4 Nigerian dwarf goats—rescues that would have gone to slaughter. We built them a large fenced area at the front so people can come at any time of the day to pet them. They are an amazing bunch. I am always encouraging folks to come visit and not feel pressured to make a purchase. We all need to be more connected to our food and I feel like these goats make a small difference.
- 7 ducks, all rescues.
- Geese are the bestest ever and at the moment we have 15. For guarding our chickens we use Sebastopol and Chinese geese.
- Last are the stars of the show, our LGDs— Livestock Guardian Dogs. We have one Great Pyrenees, Buddy, who is 190 pounds and has guarded a flock of 1,000 to 1,500 hens from coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and hawks for the last seven years on his own. In 2018, we brought two Maremma sheepdog pups, Penny and Phoebe, to the farm to start their training. LGDs are a huge commitment and after 18 months of training my girls have almost completed the bond to their livestock as well as to me as their shepherd. There is nothing on this earth as incredible as an LGD and I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to work besides these amazing creatures.
Tell us about the egg vending machine.
Our farm’s urban location allows us to sell 60% of our eggs out of a vending machine on our property. The farm stand is open all day, every day and people LOVE the convenience. Our vending machine is the only one of its kind in the US.
How did you come to farming?
My husband and I dreamed of homesteading and living off the land for years. I saw Wise Acre Farm for sale over two years ago on a Facebook ad. I had always been a fan of Wise Acre farm and didn’t want my community to lose something so special and unique. So I called my husband and told him we were going to buy the farm. He knew right away I wouldn’t stop until it was mine. The area I live in (Healdsburg CA) is very expensive, so for this first-generation farmer leasing the land was the only option. I pay per shipping container and per hen! My landlord is amazing and I have much respect for her family’s property. We have a great relationship.
Any advice for urban homesteaders looking to have a coop of their own and be more self-sufficient in COVID-19 times?
Keep water, food, and shelter clean. Everyone likes chicken, so make sure you have a way to keep them safe. Study up on preventive care for mites and internal worms. Have an Instagram and follow all the poultry farmers and homesteaders. You will seriously learn so much and most of us are willing to take the time to help you out and answer specific questions. I had a goose hatching go bad this month and I messaged four IG friends and one account I follow. Thankfully with their advice the gosling made it through the night, and was raised by my son in our living room.
Is there a hen that you hold in your heart above all others? A chicken to remember?
Yes, Butters. Butters is a gold sex-link, super old (around 5 years!), and overweight. She waddles like a penguin and I just love her.
Follow Tiffany and her flock @wiseacre_farm.