Treasure Hunting

I had dreamed of raising chickens all my life. Even as a little girl in the city i knew that some day i wanted to have chickens. By the time i had a piece of land and an absence of a home owners society i had already developed an allergy to chicken eggs. However, my fascination with chicken behavior and chicken antics had not dwindled. I still wanted to raise the crazy birds. So i did. I figured i would give a couple eggs to the dogs on mondays and trade the rest to a select few people in exchange for occasional use of tools or to haul an order from town. It did not bother me that the girls hit laying age in the dead of summer when it was 110 degrees outside. I was fascinated with the chickens themselves. It was my coworkers that were waiting on the eggs.

I continued to visit them in the evenings and hold them one by one on my lap petting them while the rest of the chickens huddled around my knees panting, nuzzling their heads against my apron and waiting for nightfall to bring cooler air. My coworkers asked weekly, “are they laying yet?” So, i checked the coop every few days but, there was never anything there. It was just too hot for them and they were focused on surviving, not laying eggs. Well, towards mid July we had a hurricane in the gulf and the rain brought a week of temperatures in the 90s instead of triple digits. I got curious if the slight change in temperature would have any affects on the chickens so i opened the cleaning door to the coop and gasped. There in the shavings on the floor was a mound that one of the chickens had piled up and in the center of it were two tiny brown eggs. As i looked towards the nesting boxes, there was a third round brown egg hidden amongst the shavings there. I collected all 3 eggs. One of them was still warm. I brought them out into the daylight and examined them. They were different shades of brown. They were perfect little ovals. None of the chickens were broody or had any interest in sitting on them so no one seemed to much mind when i made off with the treasure in my apron pockets.

They had done it. My precious chickens that i had raised from little yellow balls of fluff under a heat lamp in the tiny house bathroom had begun laying eggs. My coworkers were thrilled and promised to bring me cartons during our next coinciding work day.

I stared at the three round brown eggs in awe. It was just mind boggling how all i had to do was feed and water them and clean their coop out once every three weeks and these birds would give me a daily resource that i could use for barter, dog food, or simply the joy of collecting. I couldn’t believe how it worked. A human had to work nine months to produce one baby. A chicken laid an egg a day. What a fascinating animal! It was a wonder to me why every household didn’t want one of these.

The following monday i selected a nice brown egg from the bunch and cracked it on the counter. Into the skillet the contents would go.

It was a perfect little egg.

The egg white was fluffier than that of a store bought egg.

I made a sunny side up egg, like i used to do for myself long ago. I left the yolk somewhat runny. Then i cut the egg in half and divided it evenly between each dog’s bowl. I set it on top of their dog food and let the yolk sink down between the little brown kernels. Then i called the dogs.

Sili wasn’t much interested in the fact that there was something different in her bowl. She ate 3/4 of whatever i put in front of her and then sat down dutifully waiting for me to open the door. Cashew thought it was christmas, birthday, and fourth of july all rolled into one. You couldn’t have torn her away from that bowl if you’d told her there was a herd of giant squirrels stampeding the hillside. She held the bowl with her paws and licked it until it shined like polished silver. I could tell Cashew was going to like mondays.

Egg collecting became like treasure hunting for me. Those crazy chickens buried eggs on the floor in the shavings, hid them between straw and the sides of the nesting boxes, and sometimes tucked them in the corners of the nesting box ceiling where the boxes met with the main part of the coop. In order to find the eggs one had to look everywhere. Frequently the chickens would scratch all the shavings and straw out of the boxes and lay eggs on the wood so a few of them sported hairline fractures but i figured they were still viable if eaten immediately. Every day i had something to look forward to. I knew lily and petunia were laying the light brown eggs. One chicken was laying speckled eggs, and the other two had to be laying the medium brown eggs. I wondered who was laying the speckled eggs but i hadn’t caught anybody in the act yet. Every day i visited the girls with empty apron pockets and left with a bounty of small treasure. What a wonderful creature to add to the homestead. Cashew watched me make my trips to the chicken pen with greedy anticipation. She may have been the only individual more obsessed with those chickens than i was. Cashew really appreciated a fresh egg.

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