Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Getting Restless

Alice (right) and Emmeline are getting restless.
The eggs have kept coming, one every couple of days it’s been a baker’s dozen now.* Alice has continued laying since she started up again, a couple of weeks back, though I still haven’t caught her in the act.

It’s been delightful to resume the eating of eggs. Oh, I bought some from the supermarket during the Great Egg Drought that happens naturally during winter, but for the most part I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. 

The shells may be of uniform size and colour, but the yolks look anaemic, even though I buy only the free-range brands. Besides, I don’t know where they’ve been.

Today, Emmeline the Light Sussex made her entrance, laying her first egg of the season. Emmeline’s eggshells feature small white splashes atop a pink blush or bloom: lightly scratch the surface, and you can see the tan colour underneath.** 

An egg from her, as from any of my half-dozen hens, is layered with meaning: a many splendoured thing. Alternatively, I’m reading way too much into it, and it’s just an egg.

Emmeline’s egg (left): has she
been careless with a paint pot?
’s surely not kiln-dried poo.
She made enough fuss about it. “Emmeline’s all mouth and no trousers,” I told Carol this morning, having just responded to the noise yet again to find... nothing. A few hours later, however, I was rewarded. And as I have been brought up to be polite, I expressed my gratitude. “Thank you,” I told Emmeline. “That’s a very nice egg.”

Neither she nor the others take a blind bit of notice when I say that. They’ve moved on. But from my point of view, an essential part of the process is being truly thankful for what I have just received.

Where’s the nesting box? It used to be here.
There it is ...up the stairway to heaven.
The sound effects are essential too, it seems. As the hens come back into lay, they become noticeably restless and noisy. It’s entertaining at times but angst-inducing as well, for an animal husband such as me. 

Am I providing all the necessities of life and enough of its luxuries, I wonder? Must the chooks argue over one nesting box when they have two, both spacious and lined with straw? And what will the neighbours think about the cackle-ophony? 

Infill housing has sidled up to us since Carol and a friend constructed the coop about 15 years ago, so within shrieking range of our chickens stand two newish brick-and-tile homes where previously there were expansive backyards with free-range grass. 

Fortunately, their occupants haven’t complained — not even in summer, when sometimes the girls clamour for breakfast at an uncivilised hour.

If ever the neighbours do complain, I’ll be ready. All the best chook books suggest that even a grumpy bugger can be disarmed — with an egg.


* “Baker's dozen meaning ‘thirteen’, arose in the 16th century. It was a traditional bakers' practice to add an extra loaf to every dozen sold to a shopkeeper — this extra, thirteenth loaf was the source of the retailer's profit when the loaves were sold on to customers.” — Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins. 

** I’ve borrowed “bloom” from botany; I’m not sure what that outer layer is really called. In The Gardener’s Dictionary of Horticultural Terms, Harold Bagust describes it as “The very fine powdery or waxy deposit covering the surface of certain leaves, stems and fruits such as grapes and plums: a protective coating easily rubbed off if the fruit is badly handled.”

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