Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Presenting: the five debutants

Last night, beneath that brilliant full moon, deep in the barn, behind the hay, far from the nesting box I purchased (then filled with straw and dropped an oh-so-suggestive golf ball into) eggs have been discovered. Perfect, small eggs. 1-2-3. Not the gelatinous orbs I was warned they would initially grunt out. But thick shelled and brown.

We'd hoped. We'd dreamed, but still we wondered. The girls aren't even 6 months old yet. And winter is when egg production usually drops off. Apparently the issue is food: they need to be awake long enough to eat enough to have enough calories left over to pop out an egglet. We put a light on a timer in their hutch and at least one of them has responded.

We are perfectly giddy over our debutant, whoever she may be! Chicken Bat Mitzvah!

Of course, the eggs weren't where they're supposed to be, which raises eyebrows. The girls spend most of their day under the back porch and I'm wondering if I should belly crawl down there to check out the scene. But that sounds like some grody combination of Halloween and Easter, hunting rotten eggs with spiders.

I was going to tell you how we have these fabulously egalitarian chickens. No pecking order has been observed. Everyone eats. Priscilla, the white one who flaps across the lawn like a plastic bag, is a bit of a loner who likes to be pet. Otherwise, they're all kind of the same. But now that puberty has set in... Well, we all know what happens next. This morning there were fights! Massive chicken brawls in the barn! Like some crazy illegal boxing match. I couldn't believe it. They even did that cocky head strut thing, circled around each other, eying their opponents, bobbing around looking for openings and weaknesses. Crazy girls. I almost ran and got the Principal! No way was I going to break that up myself: too entertaining and I'm too chicken... or not enough chicken, to jump into the middle.

Chickens are easy pets, mostly. You should really get some. They are hilarious. They follow Blue out to the bus stop in the morning. They follow their silver scrap bucket everywhere. I'll take it out to the barn and they'll run behind me, their thin little legs whirling while their humongous thighs causing quite the waddle. I'll dump the bucket in their trough, and then they will follow that shiny metal bucket of promise all the way back to the house, never even noticing the treats of whey and soggy toast crusts in the trough.

Chicken food is perfectly formulated for chickens. Every little pellet contains every nutrient a chicken needs in perfect proportion. And my harem hates it. They'll pick at it once they're locked in the hutch for the night. And they'll peruse the first handful in the morning. But they're easily bored with it and would much prefer the kitchen scraps or to run about rummaging for grubs in the cow shit, for seeds in the dead garden, for insects anywhere, for ANYTHING BUT their food. And when you think about it, how would you like to eat the same thing every day, every bite the same flavor. No matter how perfectly, scientifically suited to your dietary needs, I think we'd all go crazy.

And that is the story about my crazy quintuplets, may they survive their adolescence and figure out where to put their eggs.

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