Reub's journey

19 November 2011

Chickens and eggs

I grew up on a small farm in rural Wisconsin; we had chickens, pigs and cattle. When my cousins came up from Chicago to spend weekends with us, they thought that the thing about eggs was so cool: eggs came, in perfect egg-shape, from chickens. They didn't get why I wasn't cheerful about one of my chores: minding the chickens and collecting their eggs.

The chickens we had back then, decades ago, were crafty, beady-eyed, athletic creatures who protected their eggs and hated being sent to the chicken house at night. You had to be really quick and determined to reach under them while they sat on their stupid eggs; sweet-talking never worked, and I dreaded their accurate, sharp beaks. I was nine years old. If I was 20 minutes late it was almost impossible to get them out of their roosts in the apple trees and back into the hen house, safe from marauding predators. I watched impassively while my mother took a hatchet to their necks on the chopping block. Later, when I found out chickens are descendants of velociraptors, I thought, "That makes perfect sense."

"A" says that the black chickens produce eggs like the one in the upper right, brown chickens produce the ones in the middle, and white chickens-you guessed it-produce white eggs.
But about a month ago I began to buy eggs from "A", who works in the lunchroom at school, and now I'm revising my opinion of chickens. "A" loves her chickens. When she collects their eggs they lean forward to be rewarded with a stroke. They get petted constantly and they produce eggs like gangbusters.

Sometimes when I open a carton of eggs from "A" I see this pattern
I was also recently told that breeds of chickens vary widely in their nice-ness. Egg-layers are supposed to be more docile. I wish somebody had informed my parents of that.

Sometimes it looks like this.

 Well, never mind.

The last dozen looked like this.
I'm just glad to make my peace with chickens. However now it's going to be hard to buy eggs from anybody else other than "A," whose chickens I imagine every time I eat one of their eggs.  Chickens who lean forward on their nests, anticipating their gentle reward.


  1. aww! this made me want to buy eggs from happy chickens like A's. :)

  2. my sister had chickens for a couple of years. a great source of entertainment for me but then I didn't have to take care of them. and yeah, little dinosaurs. my sister called them the borg because they would act in concert.

    back when your parents had chickens they probably didn't have docile egg layers yet.

  3. This is a MARVELOUS post - so artful. The images are perfect.

    The keeping of hens is very much coming back into the group mind. There's a group on the hill (Hens on the Hill) lobbying local government to change regulations so they can be kept again here. (The law changed in 1963 which doesn't seem like that long ago to me).

    My British friend just started keeping "chooks" as she calls them. Another friend in Texas publishes a blog full of pics of her chooks and geese. They are truly characters!

  4. twg: I never worried about chickens being happy until now. But now I think about it.

    Ellen: If my parents had known, maybe they would have purchased docile chicks, but maybe not. Maybe they would have thought "It's not our problem. Kerry will figure out how to collect those eggs from the velociraptors, who are way cheaper to buy than the others."

    Reya: Chickens on Capitol Hill! I think we already have that! No seriously, I love the idea that people in DC could raise chickens in their back yards.

  5. I love chickens and eggs, which I got them from the supermarket nearby.We have a modern chicken farms which produced eggs, but not enough for our populations so we mostly imported them from neighbouring countries, same goes the chicken too.But they are brought in alive and slaughtered, cleaned, gutted, packed....all in one center before sending off to all the supermarkets here.

  6. I would love to buy my eggs from her. I love your artistic approach to the egg photos.

  7. It never occurred to me that chicken breeds could be so different from each other. I like to buy eggs from a local farmer. Much better than store bought. :)

  8. Chickens do have beady eyes, and they run away when you call them to come. And you have to be home before dusk to lock them up.

    I find buying eggs from the farm is a lot easier than keeping them myself.

    In the olden days the egg money was the farmer's wife's pin money.

  9. Jama, That's more or less how the chicken business works here; it's mostly very large-scale & quite industrialized.

    Rebecca: It's so fun to buy eggs from A. I can't wait to see how she arranges the colors in the carton!

    EGW: The eggs from a farmer are quite different, aren't they?: Stronger shells, and better-tasting. It's surprising about the different breeds.

    Reya: That's a neat blog. I really enjoyed all of the animal pictures & stories. Thanks!! Chooks!

    Friko; I see that we share certain feelings about chickens. My mother used to sell eggs door-to-door, and it was her spending money.

    jb: The eggs, silly. And the chickens, too. All at once.

  10. Gorgeous eggs! And so much better tasting than store-bought. I had a pet chicken once named Matilda. She loved to be petted and never tried to hide her nest from me. My dad raised chickens when I was very young. I loved being in the hen house at egg-laying time to hear their murmurs as they produced my breakfast...


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