Sunday, April 6, 2014

the chicken and the egg

Soon it will be time to decide whether to add a new group of chicks to the flock.

At the moment, there are only five hens here. The two Buff Orpingtons (one seen above) and the Black Jersey Giant are a few years old now. The Rhode Island Red and the little brown hen are almost a year old. I bought them last autumn to bolster the winter egg supply. I've never added half-grown birds to my flock before, so I cautiously kept the newbies in the barn with the goats for a couple of weeks to watch for any health problems.

The Rhodie in quarantine.

The brown hen began to lay as soon as I brought her home. Her eggs are a very pale green. I've always had brown eggs, so the first light ones were a bit of a novelty. They were also sporadic and very variable in size, but since this was a pullet just beginning to lay, it seemed likely she'd soon settle down into producing a daily egg of consistent size. But she didn't. Instead, she went into a deep, long moult in November, and didn't lay another egg all winter.

The brown hen in moult.

Then all three older hens also decided to take the entire winter off. So for the past four months, the Rhode Island Red has been the only working hen on the place, cheerfully presenting me with a lovely organic egg almost every day.

Thank you, Little Red Hen!!

To recap:

I've been feeding five hens organically all Winter,
in order to have one egg daily.

I am not going to figure out how much those eggs have been costing me,
but it's been a worthwhile expense.
Apart from the value of having fresh, organic eggs in the larder,  
they have also provided a reliably joyful moment
in each dark morning of this bitter Winter.
There's a special pleasure in picking up a warm, newly-laid egg
and holding it in your cold hand for a moment
before continuing on to a series of very cold chores.
Thawing the frozen gate latches. 
Breaking the ice in water buckets.

Plus, they're pretty. See? 

In the past couple of weeks, the brown hen has just begun to lay. But again, not every day - unless she is laying some of her eggs outside the Poultry Palace. I've had hens try all sorts of places: under a lawn chair on the screen porch, behind a shovel in the goat barn, on top of a tall stack of hay bales...I'll let you imagine how I discovered that last location.

So this morning I kept all the hens in the Courtyard for a while, to encourage laying inside the Palace. Shortly before noon, there was a lot of the sudden, exuberant hollering that some hens do to announce the recent achievement of an egg. Since I didn't recognize the voice, I was not surprised to find a pale green egg in the nest in the Palace, right next to the daily brown egg from the Rhodie.

Here it is:

Do you think this is what was meant by the recipe
that called for "one and a half eggs"?

And in case you may think I just have freakishly tiny hands,
here are the two eggs side by side:

Oh, little brown hen.

 I do wish you would try to pace yourself.


  1. What an adorable post! 'try to pace yourself' :) You made me smile! Thank you! Hugs!deb

  2. oh dear. I cannot begin to imagine, especially as I've never given birth. Quinn, you might be the reason I get a few hens when I move to the new place (whenever that might happen). The dogs are now used to guineas so getting used to hens wouldn't be difficult. A little hen house seems quite charming.

  3. Holey Moley - no WONDER she was exuberantly hollering!!! OK, as a non-farm girl, and just because I wonder about crazy stuff - do you suppose that egg has more than one yolk in it, like I find occasionally with the store bought eggs? I'm thinking, from the size of it, there might be FOUR in there! Happy Sunday, Quinn - Tanya

    1. It's a very reasonable interpretation, Tanya! But so far I haven't seen a double-yoker from this hen, even when she produces these mega-eggs.

  4. No wonder the hen was squawking with the size of that egg!! Maybe it's double-yolk inside? I've never had hens, but I used to like watching them at children's farms when my kids were small. Their clucking noises are so comforting and make the barnyard seem complete :) Wendy x

    1. I agree. There's just something "right" about looking out the window and seeing hens going about their busy lives, scratching and pecking and talking amongst themselves :)

  5. As a little kid in the country with a mom who kept a few hens, it was my job to find the eggs that had been laid astray. A kid's sharp eyes can spot them better than an adult, often, and of course I was nearer a hen's eye level! I'd find them in a grassy ditch, on a little rise in the ground, etc. I remember being a bit scared of collecting eggs from the henhouse, though, because the hens were not always happy to have their eggs stolen.

    1. Yes, unless a hen starts to go broody and hang out on a nest for hours, I'll usually avoid taking an egg right out from under a hen. Seems unfair to steal their moment of glory :)

  6. Love your hens! I just wrote an egg poem on my Mountain Poet blog :)

    1. Great! I'll be right along to read it! :)

  7. Perhaps little red hen could have a talk with little brown hen about the art of pacing yourself. What a huge egg - it must have been like childbirth for her!

    Your line about feeding all those hens organically for one egg per day made me chuckle. My husband loves to tease me about how much my organic home-grown carrots and greens cost us every summer :)

    1. I laughed at myself every time I bought and unloaded another sack of organic layer pellets. "Layer" pellets...hahaha! ;)

  8. Oh, have you ever seen an ostrich egg? I used to work at a place that had resident ostriches (long story), and the eggs were tremendous!!

    1. They are really huge! But considering the size of an ostrich, pretty proportional. Personally, I am pretty happy to not have resident ostriches!

  9. My goodness...that's a huge egg!

  10. I'm not surprised the delivery caused her to shout a bit, that egg is enormous. And the prettiest colour. I have long had an ambition to keep hens but it's just not possible here. One day!

  11. That's one very big egg! Poor little brown hen! I wish we still had our chickens. Xx


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