I used to have a chicken that defied the odds. I always assumed, as a mature farmer (of course), that I wouldn't take to any of my farm animals as ‘pets'. They're here to work and they serve a purpose and that was that. But my Helen hen broke the mold.
I've had very few chickens in my farming days that have managed to break through my calloused heart and Helen was the queen of them all. After she was taken by an owl a few months ago, I swore that I would never love again. I sulked around the farm for weeks, pumping my clenched fists up at the sky, and cursing the owls, hawks, and eagles that lingered.
Months have passed since Helen and her chicks were taken at dawn by that silent-hunter and still, I find my heart calloused towards my chicken flock – though this time for different reasons.
It's not because they're not Helen. Though, of course, there is that (Helen was the bessssst, man).
My animosity stems from this: I'm ball-parking it here, but I would guess that our chicken flock is currently around 40 layers. Would you care to take a stab at how many eggs I've been averaging a day in these short, cold days?
2 eggs from 40+ hens.
I know it's cold-ish. I know the days are short. I know it's “natural”. But in all my years of chicken raising, I've never seen such a tremendous slump in egg production! Ever. What up ladies?!
In great haste last week, I optimistically grabbed my egg basket before trotting out into the cold, crisp air to check the nesting boxes. Surely, because the chickens would know Thanksgiving was coming and there were cream puffs to make, they would once again fill my basket with one of the greatest treasures in the world – fresh eggs.
They didn't. That day, I didn't even get one egg.
Because I'm a radically mature adult, I smiled, thanked them for the joy they bring to the farm, and bounced back down to the kitchen to go about my tasks.
Rather, I kicked and screamed and whined like a four-year-old (trust me, I know how four-year-olds whine).
What do you want from me, chickens? I give you food! Good food! I give you fresh water every day! I give you herbs. I give you vinegar. I give you scraps. I let you roam the land. I let you dig. You have all the fresh air you could hope for. There's new bedding. There are clean nesting boxes. Hell, I even kill all the males that give you trouble. What?! What do you want from me?!
After my tantrum, I came in and sat by the fire. I placed my head into my hands, leaned over my knees, and I wept. Literally.
I'm sorry, Shaye. Little dramatic, don't-ya-think?
Yes, I do think. But yet I still found myself silently weeping while the tears dripped down to the tip of my nose and collected in a small puddle on the hearth. In my misery and anger, I prayed. I kept returning to the idea that my provisions, every day, come from the Lord. Daily bread is His to give to me. I asked for forgiveness and thanked him for our bountiful provisions.
I got up. Brushed myself off. Wiped my cheeks. Apologized to my family for throwing such a tantrum. And walked back outside to work.
And that's where I found this:
Quite literally, the most beautiful nest of eggs I've ever seen.
I know, as a writer, it's my job to put words to the parts of life that need them.
And yet… there are none.