After weeks of expecting our chickens to lay eggs any moment, and day after day of walking out to the coop and walking back to the house feeling disappointed, Tuesday afternoon I plodded out there thinking it’d be just another eggless day. I’d been taking it a little personally. Only our Polish hen is a snuggler, and just like our cats, our birds all seem to favor my husband. Perhaps I don’t have enough going on in my life, wondering if our girls were holding out because they don’t like me.
But, possible neurosis aside, Tuesday was the day! Exactly five months from the day they were brought to the door in a chirping box, one of the girls laid her first egg on a soft pile of straw.
At the time, my son was down for a nap, and I sneaked up to my daughter to surprise her with the egg. I immediately washed the egg, took photos, and slathered them proudly on Facebook, sending e-mails to family announcing our good news.
But, who laid the egg? My hunch is our Silver Laced Wyandotte, Pauline. I’ve been spending more time with the girls than usual, because of the eggs and the improving weather, and have noticed that she sneaks back to the coop while the others free range, and she digs in the straw where the egg rested and cooled. We haven’t collected enough eggs yet to determine if more than just one chicken is laying. Until I’m up to my own ovaries in chicken eggs, I may not be able to identify any differences between them.
Regardless of whose eggs we’re collecting, they’ve all been acting wacky since the day of the first egg. Are they confused? (Who was more surprised, the hen or the flock, could be debated for all time.) Or are they just hormonally-charged teenage chickens?
All of a sudden, they seem to know what they want, and like teenagers, seem to know it all. When they’re let out to free range, each chicken has her favorite place to go. And, gone are the days of pleasant foraging. When each nestles into her favorite place, like Mabel under the bushes, they commence rebellious destruction, en masse. The search for Spring’s emerging bugs, slugs and creepy-crawlies is on with fervency. They’re digging holes in my yard under the run, and even though it’s moved almost daily, the grass isn’t growing enough yet to recover.
The grass that has turned green with chlorophyll seems to be providing nutrition the chickens have been waiting for; at least, that’s only what I can assume: They’re devouring the yard. In turn, they are producing the most amazing eggs I’ve ever seen. Imagine a yolk suspended perfectly in the white. A yolk so yellow that a splash of milk doesn’t change the color of a scrambled egg. They’re rich, firm and absolutely perfect. If they had little toes, I’d count them. If they consisted of more than one cell, I’d name them. Each egg I find is like discovering a sweet love note stuck to the bathroom mirror.
No supermarket egg is treasured like a homegrown egg. They’re inherently special. A wonder of the cycle of life, with a face and a coulda-been mom in the yard.
Incredible and edible is only the beginning: It’s the chicken who makes it happen, and it’s the chicken herself, and her usefulness, I’ll be writing about soon.
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Photos: Rachel Hurd Anger