I’ve never given much thought to eggs. I used to buy them at the grocery store, head home, stick them in the refrigerator and then consume them. The only special attention I gave them was checking to see if any were broken before I made my purchase.
I have a much deeper connection to eggs these days; I raise laying chickens. I would like to be exact on how many layers we have, but they don’t stand still long enough to count! My best guess is there are between 30 and 35 layers and 3 roosters.
It takes about 4 months for chickens to begin laying eggs. We have layers in several different age brackets. It is truly a labor of love to care for them as they grow and develop. If they get injured they must be nursed back to health away from the rest because chickens become very curious with wounds and will peck at the sores of others. I shudder to think how awful it must be for commercial warehouse chickens, with no one to protect them or truly care about their wellbeing.
I watch our developing chickens like a mother watches her infant develop into a toddler, then adolescent and finally an adult. I notice and applaud their every change. I lay in bed in the morning and can pick out the distinct, pathetic, anemic, cook-a-doodle-do of the youngest rooster. I know that over time his voice will become stronger, his pitch deeper, and his authority solidified. But for the moment I laugh every time he calls out because I imagine him a boy in transition, trying his best to appear tough.
I think I am most maternal as the layers go from being just another mouth to feed, to actual producers of eggs. I feel like there should be a party, a ceremony or some other ritual to honor their transition. My girl just became a woman! When I find that first egg I want desperately to know which chicken is responsible for the gift. Since that is impossible, I tell them all how proud I am. Lame, I know, but true.
Their first attempts at laying are always interesting. Although we have constructed 12 nest boxes, inevitably the first few they lay will be in the chicken yard, or under the roost in the coop. Their first eggs are adorably tiny…..I save them for my grandson to eat because they are just the right size for him.
As the chickens grow, so do their eggs. Occasionally, there will be a monster egg in the nest box, surely to be a double yolk. I feel sympathy and a kinship to whichever chicken endured that delivery……been there, done that, sweetheart.
So I make it a habit everyday to appreciate what our chickens do for us. They produce the healthiest, tastiest and most beautifully colored eggs imaginable. As I exit the coop with my basket full of eggs, I turn to them and say “Thank you chickens”.