On Saturdays at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market, one might spot a new booth overflowing with an enthusiasm for healthy barnyard fowl. That’s Chicken & Egg, comprised of big-time-chicken-appreciators, Margarita and Bill Lee.
They’re in the business of supplying healthy, tasty, ethical chicken eggs to the market community.
“Chicken & Egg is really the cornerstone of a larger plan we’ve had in play for a while,” Bill says. “The intent of our business is to make people aware of what good true pasture-raised eggs are about.
“A good egg comes from healthy and happy hens. Those that are not forced to do things that are not natural to them.”
Margarita, with her background in medical-surgical nursing, and Bill, a semi-retired aerospace engineer, combine their unique expertise and passion for good food into one dynamic egg-producing operation in which many happy laying hens call home.
Bill’s science-based background forms the basis for Chicken & Egg’s proprietary operational technology.
“It’s very relaxing for me, designing and running analysis; I like seeing if my systems hold up under intense scrutiny,” Bill says. “But when you’re working with chickens, you’ve got your hands in nature. You find yourself asking, ‘How can I not get in the way of nature?’ We don’t get in the way of what a chicken does when it’s a chicken. We don’t want to inhibit its natural instincts and way of life.”
The Lees don’t place their chickens in areas they can wear out but rather move their trailer every second day around their 126 acres.
“They jump out and enjoy a new, fresh plot of land, one that they won’t see again for half a year or so,” Bill says. “They go out to pasture on their own in the morning and they put themselves to bed again every night.”
The chickens are housed in a high-tech “comfort coop” of Bill’s own design.
“We provide full solar power, drop through floors, and full infrared security to protect them from predators,” he says. “It’s all super automated, we can monitor their coop for safety from our phones across the property. It works perfectly.”
Margarita, a natural nurturer with a keen sense for wellness across all life forms, echoes the importance of maintaining each bird’s quality of life.
“Hens require a lot of patience. We work closely with them every day. If something is different, we notice and attend to their individual needs,” Margarita says. “I personally think I know each one of them.”
She says she and Bill strive to raise hens as humanely as possible.
“We don’t use lights,” Margarita says. “They’re out with the flowers, bugs, and grass. They get to enjoy their dust baths. It’s chicken heaven.”
What is it about eggs that captured the Lees’ focus? It’s all in pursuit of a larger and equally tasty ambition. Chicken & Egg intends to open a handcrafted ice cream company this summer. By first building their foundation with delicious, ethical eggs, the Lees look forward to crafting a decadent custard-like ice cream with locally prioritized ingredients.
In developing their ice cream company, the Lees began to understand that sourcing fresh, high-quality eggs up to their personal standards was a challenge.
“We made the decision to raise our own chickens to ensure we get exactly the quality of egg we want. Which also allows us to secure a high quality of life for the birds,” Bill says. “We took a step back from the ice cream to really focus on firming up our foundation by starting with the eggs.”
By this genesis, Chicken & Egg was born and market guests now enjoy access to fresh, pastured eggs every Saturday.
Positive feedback from their growing customer base keeps the Lees motivated.
“Seeing smiling customers come back and say, ‘Boy, those eggs are beautiful and delicious, you guys are my new egg people!’ That means a lot,” Margarita says. “We do so much for these hens. To hear those words is beautiful to us.”
After watching Sequim’s Saturday market growth over the years, the Lees spotted a window of opportunity.
“In speaking with our customers, we kept hearing, ‘Are you going to be selling at the Sequim market?’ We watched the ongoings at the market develop and realized we wanted to take advantage of this established venue here in town,” Bill says. “We really wanted to stick our toes in and see what it felt like.”
“We wanted to provide market guests with the freshest of the fresh,” Margarita says.
Chicken & Egg can be found at The Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market, running 9 a.m.- 3 p.m. each Saturday through Oct. 30. Visit your community market at Sequim City Hall Plaza, at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street, as well as Centennial Place.
Chicken & Egg’s farmstand can be found at 33 Williamson Road in Sequim.
To stay up to date with current SFAM vendors, programming news, and other market developments, be sure to follow SFAM on Instagram, Facebook and be sure to check out sequimmarket.com.
Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia is the Market Manager for the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.