One of our favorite treats here at Happy Earth Farm is enjoying organic, range-free eggs. There is nothing more delicious than super fresh eggs right from the source. The difference in taste and nutrition between farm eggs and store bought eggs is so great that I can’t even begin to list them here.
We do our best to meet our customer’s fresh egg needs; most are local folks, but we have several “foodies” who come up from Charleston once a month to purchase their eggs and other products. The problem is that laying hens have a relatively short period of maximum productivity. After about a year to a year and a half, a hen will molt, which signals her decline in egg production. To keep up with orders, we must continually add new chicks.
Adding new laying hens is pretty uneventful. Getting the older hens to accept the youngsters in the coop once they are big enough to leave the brooder is usually the only challenge. I say usually because this latest group of twelve adolescents is testing me like none have ever done before. They are the most defiant pains in my ass!
If these adolescents were human they would be the kids who sit in the back of the school bus spewing cuss words. They would be the sour, snotty teen that rolls their eyes and talks back when discipline is attempted. The kids who sneak out after being told they are grounded. And naturally there is the obligatory sound of a slamming door while the emotionally challenged teen screams, “I hate you!”.
Every damn day it is the same with these teenage hens. I open the coop and they bum rush me airborne, just a flash of feathers in my face. Once out, they find the hole in the netting and charge out of the protective fencing…..chase them in, they run out, chase them in, they run out….until I give up and shout, “fine, just wait until your father hears about this”. Then, as I attempt to fill the feeders from the plastic can near the fence they jump onto the can and glare at me in a standoff. Afterwards, en mass, they race over to the felled tree to spend the remainder of the day slinking about looking guilty. I have searched often, but can’t find their stash of smokes and beers.
Even at night they make sure I know that they will do just about anything to assert their authority over me. A couple of weeks ago I went out to check on the chickens after dinner. I looked in and didn’t see the adolescents. I panicked wondering where they hell they were and how they got out of the closed coop. I ran around the pasture and frantically searched the bushes and trees. Nothing. I went back to the coop to check again. I heard a rustling up above my head. I looked up to discover that these naughty, naughty teens had somehow defied physics and managed to launch themselves up into the rafters for their nighttime perch…..and that’s when one of them demonstrated their ultimate punkish, defiant act……it crapped on my shoulder. I’m considering military school.