Today, our hens are 19 weeks old, nearly old enough to begin laying. Waiting for the first egg is starting to resemble the end of pregnancy when all is go, and everyone calls daily to see if mama’s in labor.
Essentially, we are waiting for an event that will change the rest of our lives. Perhaps it’s too dramatic a comparison, but we’ve made a big investment by bringing a flock of chickens to live on our small suburban lot, but I even send my husband out at night when it’s cold to make sure the girls’ ladder is up so they’re secured and warm, much like an expecting mom might sweet-talk hubs into a late night run for a tub of Phish Food and pickles.
Like adoptive parents of humans, I considered myself “paper pregnant” after our chicks were ordered, and as we waited, I marked events like the laying of the eggs that made them and developmental milestones. And, of course we celebrated our girls’ Hatchy Birthdays the day before their arrival via our postal carrier. While we’re no longer expecting baby chicks, we still have some preparations to make.
First, with the laying of eggs, we’re switching to organic feed for the best quality of eggs possible, available locally for about $30 for a 50-pound bag. Second, we need to begin offering oyster shell once the laying starts, but I’m still conflicted on whether to offer it free choice or to mix it with feed (I do a mixture of both with grit), so figuring that out is third. Fourth—and the biggie—is to plan the cooking of the first egg.
Preparing the egg will be ceremonious. It’s a big deal because the commitment to raise chickens was a big deal, one not to be entered into lightly.
Our chickens have sort of rearranged our lives, and now they’re about to pay us back for our labor with their labor. I’m in awe of them and the process of turning the energy of grains, sprouts, insects, spiders, and weeds—what most people call waste—into a form of energy our bodies can use. A long-time self-professed city girl, I’ll soon bring in my first warm egg and, setting aside the mild ick-factor (a common affliction of a new chickeneer), scramble up some love, served with four forks.
I’ll add an extra flare of awesome to the mini entrée by greasing the pan with a bit of homemade butter—thanks to this article from Mother Earth News, I’ve been whipping up butter for special occasions since 2009.
Greater sustainability, and knowledge of where our food comes from and what it’s made of were our motivators for bringing chickens into our family. Once we’re graced with the first egg, not only will we have a new reason to rush out and greet the chickens each morning, but I’ll get to cook breakfast for my kids with something created no more than 40 feet from my own kitchen table.
With the days getting longer, and our girls snuggling and sunbathing together, the wait is almost over, and I’m more than ready for the tastiest egg I’ve ever eaten! Ahem … I mean, the tastiest egg I’ve ever shared with three other people.
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Photos by Rachel Hurd Anger