Apparently, chickens understand English. They also have super-human hearing and are telepathic. That’s the only reasonable explanation. It seems they overheard the whispered conversations over the breakfast table:
“There’s only three of them.”
“Yeah, it’s barely worth keeping them around for the winter.”
“They’ve never laid anything.”
“And they lay less in the winter, unless they have extra light.”
“I don’t want to pay the light bill on that whole building just to get a couple of eggs.”
“Maybe we should just give them to our friends that have lots of chickens.”
“Yeah, just start fresh in the spring with a bunch of chicks, like 50.”
Yep, with no eggs in sight, Jarred and I lost a little faith and interest in the three chickens that remained in our depleted “herd.”
I love walking inside our shed and hearing their soothing little clucks and seeing them wandering around, but with four kids, a dog, and five cats…well, I’ve got enough things to take care of, thank you very much.
These feathered ladies theoretically reached egg-laying age around Thanksgiving. I know that mother nature runs on her own time, and that chickens, like people, don’t automatically produce on their “due date.” But still, no eggs in sight and the prospect of a long, dark winter with low egg production? It didn’t exactly make me fired up about making an extra daily trip to check on the welfare of three non-productive free-loaders in our shed.
In fact, with the holiday crunch upon us, sending our chickens off to boarding school at our friends’ hobby farm, where lots of chickens already roam about, sounded a bit appealing.
And so, I’m fairly certain the chickens overheard our hushed kitchen conversation. And you know how it is with chickens, they don’t exactly react well to stress. Nobody ever says “cool as a chicken.”
With the prospect of getting relocated to parts unknown, they did the only thing they could do to save themselves. Feeling the squeeze, they squeezed out some eggs.
Yes, just days after this conversation considering a chicken relocation, the chickens had a little Christmas miracle. Actually, seven of them. After supper, my husband, Jarred, and the kids went out to check on the chickens’ food and water. Just for kicks, my daughter checked in the nesting boxes. Nothing. As usual. Then Jarred took a peek in, and nestled in the little mound of straw that neatly conforms to a chicken body lay a little green egg.
A glance into the next nesting box revealed the mother lode. Or perhaps I should say, the mothers’ load. Six perfect little green-tinted eggs.
The kids came into the house presenting eggs, and I screamed like we just won the lottery. My six-year-old looked at me like I was nuts and said, “Mom, what’s the big deal?” using that mom-is-ridiculous tone that she’ll perfect in her teenage years.
She’s right. It’s not a big deal. Chickens lay eggs. All the time. A few eggs in a nesting box isn’t exactly newsworthy. Well, unless you are me, and then you’d dedicate half a page of the local paper to this feat.
Because for me, well, it IS a big deal. I’ve never had my own chickens before, and now we have real live egg layers. Just because I know that egg-laying happens all the time doesn’t make it any less amazing, because it is. What a feat to tuck inside a chicken all the necessary components to make an egg shell and its contents, and to be able to replicate that fantastic process on a daily basis. That’s a lot of output for such a small body.
It’s the same amazement that I feel when our kids poke a few sunflower seeds into the ground, and a few months later, the towering plants are twice as high as their six-foot dad. I understand photosynthesis and cell reproduction and many of the biological processes that make it all happen, but that said, it’s still magical to me.
Growth and life are amazing.
My maternal instinct, combined with a child-like excitement, just can’t get over how great it is to see things grow and thrive. It simply doesn’t get old. I put over 200 bulbs in the ground this fall, and I can hardly wait for spring to see the little shoots of green start to peek up. How can those lumpy brown things that look like onions create blazing red tulips when the rest of the world is still brown? And how can my long-legged three-year-old already wear some of his older brother’s handed down 5T pants? And now we can really just walk across the driveway, and go collect eggs for breakfast? Amazing.
So on the morning after winning the egg lottery, we ate green eggs and ham. My five-year-old argued that the book version contains both green eggs and green ham, not just eggs with green shells. My six-year-old argued that it didn’t matter, we could still call it green eggs and ham. I said they are both correct. While they argued over semantics, we for the first time ate eggs that came from our own barn. And that is cool.
Also cool is the fact that a trip to go check on chicken welfare now includes an egg treasure hunt. I do love a treasure hunt, especially if it involves something good to eat.
So, my chickens, rest easy. You effectively hampered any plans for relocation. You now earn your keep. You ladies will help our kids grow up with a very tangible understanding of where eggs come from, so thank you.
Finally, in the bigger picture, I am also so very thankful. In this week heading toward Christmas, in the wake of a national tragedy involving children the same age as my own, I count the blessings that I hold close every night. I am blessed to see life unfold in my children. I am blessed that together we get to watch our chickens and kittens grow. Life is a miracle.