Sunday, September 18, 2011

Eggs, Cocks, and Peckers

The first little brown egg of many. Compliments of Julia.

Well hello. I didn’t use an exclamation point there because that would imply energy, or excitement even, and since I am just coming out of my blogging coma, energy is not what I have.

Yes. Three months is a long time to not post. Summer hit and the kids were home all the time. I feel like I tripped over a sand bucket somewhere around mid June and by the time I stood up, the kids were back in school and September was half over. Or maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. I am getting old. Next month I’ll be almost 40.

And since I left off in June with chickens, and since so much has happened in three months, I figure chickens is just as good a topic to start with as any. Because something really exciting happened a few weeks ago:

A few of my girls started laying.

No, not my daughters. They are only four and ten. My other girls; the feathered, beaked, worm-eating kind.

My husband came into the bedroom one evening and said to me, “Get your shoes on and go check out the coop.”

“Did you find an EGG?” I asked, with childhood excitement.

“Go see for yourself.”

Well, even though I had already showered and my hair was still wet, I threw on my mucking boots and ran across the lawn to the coop. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that this is significant for a couple reasons; I do not go anywhere after I shower where I might encounter chicken poop, and my hair was wet. I do not go outside at night when my hair is wet for fear that bugs might fly into my hair and get stuck there. Yes. I understand that I am a tad off. Nonetheless, out in pajamas, wet hair, and mucking boots went I, to see what my husband was talking about. There, in the nesting box by the window (those chickens are a little like me and no doubt appreciate the peacefulness of a cool breeze) was a little brown chicken egg.

And when I say little, I mean little. Like it might take three of these suckers to equal one Grade A Large egg. Size notwithstanding, my excitement was something I haven’t experienced in a long time. I wasn’t simply excited for the fact that we would now always have some type of food source (breakfast for dinner when groceries run low!), but this egg was a symbol. A sign. Proof that I hadn’t (in some way) screwed up when raising my chicks, that I had in fact done something right, that clearly all the yogurt, bananas, fruit peels, and pasta I had given my chickens wasn’t in vain and had actually provided them the nutrients they needed to lay eggs. There is a section in my brain that understands that chickens the world over lay plenty of eggs without these things and that my role in this process wasn’t needed in any form, (a lot like a birthing coach, who while he/she feels pretty important in the birth of said baby, is really just a prop in the room because the baby is coming whether he/she is there or not) but what the hell. I’ll take any type of credit I can to prove I don’t suck. And now I know I do not suck when it comes to raising hens. (The jury is currently out on my role as human mother.)

So now we have eggs. On a normal day we get about three because my Auricanas aren’t laying yet, and of course, they lay the blue-green eggs. Everyday my youngest yells, “What color are the eggs today mom?” When I tell her they are all brown, she smiles and yells, “I’m SO excited for the blue ones!”

And while she is excited to gather eggs, freshly laid and still warm, she is a tad reticent about being around the chickens in flip-flops.

Because chickens are chickens and when the hens see little tiny toes with bright pink toe nails I’m sure they look quite like worms with pink hats on. And being good hunter-scratchers that they are, they want to make sure they aren’t missing a tasty morsel so they go after tiny pink toes with their beaks. You can imagine how well this goes over with a four-year-old. 

In fact, back at the end of June, we discovered one morning that one of our hens was in fact, a rooster. “May” was her his name (short for Maynard now) and May liked to go after little toes, but also after little girls (both the feathered and the human kind). Because we didn’t bargain for a rooster, and the last thing I needed was more chicks running around, we found May a nice farm out in Middleboro. Really. (Not the proverbial “farm” in the sky, but an actually farm with real people farmers. Promise.)

A few weeks ago, while watching the hens eat bugs and scratch around in the mulch, my youngest said to me, “Mom, you know how we got rid’a May?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“Well, can we get rid’a Blackie and Julia too?” she asked.

“Why would you want to get rid of Blackie and Julia?” I questioned.

“Because they are peckers,” she said. “And I hate peckers.”

Ahhhh, yes. It’s a pretty good attitude to have all in all—hating peckers, I mean. Unless they lay eggs. In which case I’m happy to overlook their peckerness. I’ll get rid of the cocks, but the peckers I’m keeping. Because I frequently run low on groceries and need to serve breakfast for dinner.