Crystal’s eggs weren’t the only ones i had to worry about. I was allergic to chicken eggs, though i had always dreamed of having chickens, much enjoyed them as pets, and found them totally useful as bug exterminators and in light of the fact that i had no garbage disposal to handle kitchen scraps. I was used to making regular runs to town to deliver free eggs to former coworkers. However, the eggs would not keep well in the car if i were to deliver them after work and with the physicality of my job i really needed to ice and elevate my foot on days off. I tried to convince people to come to me but the lure of free eggs was not strong enough to get people to drive from town to my land. I ended up giving the a/c repair man over three dozen eggs. He didn’t bring enough cartons so i put the rest in a cardboard box with some tissue paper. There’s only so many eggs my dogs can eat! One friend that lived in a neighboring small town was willing to drive out to me and i gave her 38 eggs. I now have another two dozen ready for her, not counting the ones the dogs have eaten gladly. Somebody asked me how i had so many eggs. I asked, “what do you mean?” They said everyone else who supplied them in the area said their hens had stopped or slowed down on laying eggs at this time of year. I pondered the notion. I had five chickens but i regularly got 3 to 4 eggs a day, and on occasion in the summer, 5. They said that my chickens must be happier than the other chickens to still be laying. I thought about it. I had made them a very small enclosure and i always thought that in itself would render them less than happy, but i had done it because i erected the structure myself while financially strained from buying my own ppe at marked-up prices and suffering from covid symptoms. That small pen was all i could afford and manage to erect. However, loving the chickens as i did, i made sure that if i was transferring my hand-raised babies from inside my tiny house out into the wild unknown, i was going to predator proof the pen. The roof kept hawks out of it. The trench with buried wire fencing attached to the bottom of the pen kept predators from digging under. The metal fence panels were insanely heavy and sturdy. To put it in perspective, i broke the key off in the padlock once and had to call my friend with bolt cutters to help me get in to feed the chickens because try as i might, i couldn’t figure a way. I even tried to unscrew the nuts and bolts to the door but it was put together in such a way that i would have had to have the door ajar at an angle to pull it out all the way and obviously, it was padlocked in a non-ajar position. There were foxes, raccoons, coyotes, hawks, and mountain lions that regularly passed through the area. I wanted to make it like a shark cage where divers could see the sharks but the sharks couldn’t get in. (I could point out several design flaws in actual modern-day shark cages but that is an issue for another day). I knew the chickens would witness foxes in the yard. I wanted to make sure witness was all they did. I made sure the door to the hen house was on the side farthest away from the fencing so that if a predator stuck his paw through, the chickens had a wide open escape route. I didn’t want coons reaching in and breaking the chickens necks from the outside. They were troublesome little creatures with a knack for just that kind of behavior. So i made a very small but sturdy structure and put the chickens in it. Everyone remarked how little space the chickens had to move around but they seemed contented. They took dust baths, scratched for food, ate the chicken feed, laid eggs, laid traps for bugs by mixing feed and water and eating whatever was attracted to the smell, caught flies and chased each other in circles around the hen house. They ate whatever organic veggie or fruit peelings and scraps i brought them daily. They seemed happy enough. They also enjoyed a daily pet from me. I would hold Daisy, petting her and hugging her tightly and she would settle her neck down and make a sort of cooing noise, squinting her eyes nearly shut. As i began to research what happy chickens looked like i ran across an article that claimed chickens egg yolk color changed based on the vitamin A content of their diet. The more orange the yolk was, the more vitamin A the chicken was getting.
I was still drowning in eggs so i regularly cooked 4 on days off to feed to the dogs just so they weren’t wasted. I cracked four eggs into the pan and studied them for color. The egg yolks were pretty near orange. I smiled. The girls must be getting their vitamins from all those organic veggie table scraps now that a pandemic and budgeting was dictating i cook everything from scratch.
I developed a theory. I figured Rosie’s eggs ought to be a little oranger than the rest, as she was the biggest, fattest, most dominant chicken and she nearly always dominated the feeder and the kitchen scraps i threw to them. I opened one of Rosie’s eggs directly next to one of Petunia’s. Sure enough, Rosie’s egg yolk was slightly more orange. Each time i made eggs after that i made a point to compare Rosie’s egg to the others and it was always slightly more orange. I laughed. Rosie was hogging all the food.
I was not having a good time in the slightest dealing with 2020 and all it brought with it. However, the dogs were thrilled. I was unemployed for a time and traded that in for part-time work, so i was home more often and they were getting sunny side up eggs for breakfast for no reason that they could think of. According to them, they were having a wonderful year.