Sunday, March 23, 2008

In Lieu of a Golden Egg

When I informed my friend Lee that I would shortly begin work on a farm, he had one important question for me: is it true that chickens lay eggs the same color as their ear feathers? I must confess, Lee, I am three weeks on the farm and I still haven't noticed that the chickens even have ears. Eggs, on the other hand, they have in abundance. Collecting the eggs has fast become my favorite morning chore, even after one particularly disastrous attempted-chicken-rescue sent both me and my wayward fowl careening into the electric fence. That chicken still runs when it sees me coming.

I am fascinated by the variations in their shape, texture, and color--our hens lay blue-green, sandy brown, and the standard white eggs, and once a tiny runt of an egg no bigger than what a quail would produce. Unsurprisingly, given my passion for miniature, I immediately claimed it for my own. Even though the outcome of my a.m. expedition is never in doubt, each morning feels like my own private easter egg hunt, and I marvel when I lift up a hen to find a warm little egg snug beneath her. Most of our chickens would make horrible mothers--they've abandoned their post long before I show up with the food and water--but one broody hen seems determined to raise a brood. Every morning I find her perched atop 4-5 adopted eggs, and though she relinquishes them without a fight, I always feel a pang of guilt at stealing her work out from under her.

On average, from our 3oish chickens we collect about 18-20 eggs per day. This seems like a bonanza to me, though I am told to expect an egg from each hen about every day and a half. Especially now, as spring makes ever more daring advances, eggs are the perfect representation of abundant, extravagant life. Eggs are both promise and product, seeds and sustenance. Our chickens may be dumber than several varieties of tomato, but I love them none the less thanks to those gorgeous, miraculous eggs.

Happy Easter, Happy Ostara, Happy Passover to all!

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