We have chickens, four hens and a rooster. We bought them last spring as chicks at the Tractor Supply Company, TSC, or as Cheryl calls it, “the store for real men.” We keep them in a 20 by 40 chicken yard next to the barn. In one corner is a 6 by 8 covered coop I built last summer where they roost at night and have nests to lay their eggs. I’m trying to let them set and hatch off some biddies but the varmints (skunks, opossums, etc.) keep eating the eggs. In the past month I have guided two skunks and one opossum into the light where the joyfully reunited with their departed loved ones.
Each evening I visit the coop and collect two or three eggs leaving one for the brood nest. Last week a full dozen eggs had accumulated and I was so hopeful we would have chicks in a few weeks. But something ate the eggs and I am having to start over.
A visit to the chicken yard is an adventure. They greet me at the gate, eyes darting between my hands which sometimes have table scraps for them and the opening that offers freedom and all the bugs you can eat. Using my boot as a barricade, I slip in without effort; I haven’t lost a prisoner yet. I do give them release time once or twice a week. They are appreciative and return to roost before nightfall.
In the yard there is a clear pecking order. Red, a Rhode Island Red, is the top hen. The other three defer to her. She will occasionally run up behind me and give me a quick peck as if trying to impress the others she has me whipped into line. I ignore it. Afterwards she and Henrietta will eat out of my hand.
The rooster is another story. He wants to rule the roost. His spurs are in and he works out at the gym every day. Also a Rhode Island Red, he prefers the surprise attack, think WWF “flying drop kick” with spiked heels. If the hens are watching he gets all cocky (pun intended) and comes at me head on, neck feathers flouted, spurs sharpened. Then at the last second he jumps, flips, and kicks. I am armed only with my 14 inch barn boots which have served as a launching pad for a few impromptu flying lessons for him.
Recently, he has learned the boots are too tough for his spurs to penetrate. He now aims above them, targeting as high as my mid-thigh. This happens about once a week. I confess my commitment to non-violence does not extend to red-headed foes. I would never injure him, I need him for another generation. But once they are here we are going to have pressure-cooked rooster. I rule the roost; he just doesn’t know it yet.
It’s all about the eggs. Anyone who has eaten yard eggs knows the difference. The yokes are a deep amber color which is but a prelude to the rich flavor that God formulated before the beginning of time for our pleasure but which humanity in all our wisdom has diluted through selective breeding and artificial living conditions for the pitiful purpose of profits. (I feel a sermon coming on.)
I prefer my eggs scrambled and smothered in grits, but fried will do with extra grits. There is nothing quite like breakfast for dinner: eggs, grits, toast, and sausage. If we have any left-over rice, I can whip up a mean curried egg-and-rice. I might be the only human being willing to eat it, but it’s mean to me. And at least once a week I make myself an evening meal of cinnamon French toast bathed in honey. I have read where free range eggs are more healthy than the mass produced variety, that’s nice, but not necessary.
April 25, 2010