Photo by Audrey Pavia
I remember the first time one of our chickens laid an egg. We’d gotten the chickens as pullets and had been impatiently waiting for them to grow up so they would start laying. The morning I went out to the coop to let them out and found a lone egg in one of the nest boxes was one to remember. Even though the egg was half the size of the ones I bought in the grocery store, it was the most amazing egg I’d ever seen. I brought it in the house in a clenched hand and told Randy to close his eyes until I opened my fist to reveal the gift within. His gasp of excitement said it all.
Hundreds of eggs have come to pass since I discovered that first one. Most of them are your typical bantam-sized eggs — half the size of the ones marked “small” in the carton. In recipes, it takes two of our chickens’ eggs to equal one regular-sized egg.
Once in a while, we get a rather strange looking egg creation. I’ve seen eggs that are elongated, leaving me to think it must have been squeezed out rather painfully. I’ve seen a few that are perfectly round, teeny-tiny eggs, the size of a marble. After ogling them for a while, I toss them in the trash. I’m afraid to break them open for fear of what weirdness might be inside.
Sometimes the nest boxes are empty, and I know the hens have decided to shake things up a bit by finding a new place to make deposits. More than once, I’ve had to go on egg hunts around the yard to find the hiding place. I once found Gwennyth sitting on more than 20 eggs that had been laid under a bush in the planter. I didn’t know how long the eggs had been there, so I had to toss them. It was heartbreaking.
I wasn’t always so enthusiastic about the eggs our hens produce. It took me a while to get used to the idea of eating them. For some reason, I was grossed out by the idea. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, this is not an uncommon reaction among city folk to homegrown eggs. Once I got used to the idea, I tried to share the joy of our fresh eggs with others. I wasn’t completely surprised when people turned down my offer, responding with disgusted looks on their faces. I guess seeing my hens scratching around in horse poop didn’t help the situation. (Although if these same people saw the conditions where hens are kept at factory farms, they wouldn’t be eating grocery store eggs either.)
With all the drama that centers around the eggs we get from our hens (including the proud ba-guck! that is sounded whenever a hen produces one of these prizes), what’s most important is how good they taste. The bright yellow yolks and fresh flavor make it hard to eat store-bought eggs during those dry spells when the hens are taking a break. I’ve come to realize that my squeamish friends and relatives just don’t know what they’re missing.