Eggs, especially farm fresh eggs, are important to Patt Mosley of West Richland.
When she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer in 2007, her mom, Margaret Han of Richland, made her eggs every day.
"Her theory is, because eggs contain everything they need inside to create a little chicken that there's enough sustenance within the egg to make me healthy," Mosley said. "Mom made eggs and eggs and eggs, to the point where I didn't want to have to eat eggs ever again."
With time, Mosley got over her aversion to eggs, but she never forgot her mom's theory about health and eggs.
Which is why, when she heard about the Red Mountain Egg Farm run by Mike and Laura Mackey of Benton City, Mosley signed up.
For the past six months, like clockwork, Mike Mackey has dropped off two dozen fresh eggs at her house twice a month.
The Mackeys went into the egg farm business about two years ago and now have about 200 customers in West Richland and Richland, and recently have expanded into parts of Kennewick.
"I'm glad Mike's expanding his routes. I'm considering ordering his eggs for my mom," Mosley said.
The Mackeys' inspiration for an egg farm/delivery service came one day as they were brainstorming ideas of something they could do from home to generate an income.
"We thought, why not eggs? It was something we were already doing on a small scale, just selling our extras to friends and family," he said. "We decided to expand our flock and came up with a system of deliveries so we could have a retail operation."
This year, the Mackeys plan to enlarge their flock once again from about 800 laying hens to about 1,200.
Customers pre-order eggs by the dozen through the website, www.redmountain eggs.com. Twice a month Mike Mackey drops their orders off, going to a different area of the Tri-Cities each day.
"Our goal is that our eggs are no more than 48 hours old when delivered," he said. Eggs sold in grocery stores can be as much as three, even four weeks old, he said.
The Mackeys charge $3.39 a dozen. In comparison, a dozen large eggs at the grocers runs about $1.80.
The price doesn't bother Mosley.
"They are a bit more costly than in the store, but you can totally see the difference between a store egg versus one of Mike's, and there's a difference in taste," she said.
"At first my husband, Duke, kind of freaked out at how much I was paying for eggs. But I brought up my mom's theory about eggs and health, and explained how I felt we need to support our local farmers. Now he really likes these eggs," she said.
"They're worth the extra money. I figure we spend money on snacks and diet Coke, so why not spend another dollar or two on really good eggs," she said.
On Feb. 1, the price of a dozen of Red Mountain Egg Farm eggs will go up to $3.59 because the cost of feed has increased. Delivery adds another dollar per stop, no matter how many dozen eggs you buy.
"Some people tell me they combine orders with friends and neighbors and then split up the order to save a little money. I don't mind. It's easier on me to drop them off all in one place. It's less driving for me," Mike said.
The couple's hens lay about 1,000 eggs a month, even in the winter when most hens' egg production drops off dramatically.
He keeps the egg supply constant by focusing on breeds that have been bred to lay year round -- bovan and ISA-Brown -- and by providing the hens with artificial light in the winter.
"Hens need about 16 hours of light a day to stimulate egg production. Other people tell me their hens have quit laying, but mine are laying as well now as they did last summer," he said.
The Mackeys don't claim to be organic but do try to farm as naturally as possible. They feed their hens a vegetable-based scratch with no meat byproducts, and their birds are free to roam in one of eight pens.
"It may sound silly to some, but I think it's important that a flocking animal like a laying hen be able to socialize with other chickens. My hens are free to walk around, scratch in the dirt, eat the occasional bug," Mike said.
The Mackeys are licensed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture. This helps ensure they follow certain sanitation and safe food handling procedures.
"I've found they're not overly restrictive and I have no problem complying," he said.