Backyard Farming Follies

A few weeks ago a friend emailed and explained that as a teacher she needed to do some field trips to maintain her credential and visits to farms counted toward this requirement. She wondered if it would be OK to visit our house to see our chickens and garden, the implication being that we had arrived at some sort of farm status. If we are a farm we have to be one of the most comical varieties around.

For example, yesterday morning I let the chickens out at 6:30 am to free range. They have a rhythm where they roam around and two by two take turns laying eggs in the nest. They are usually fairly orderly but yesterday all heck broke loose. They clucked and cawed and made a racket because Cheesy, the Buff Orpington prima donna of the coop, hogged the nest, driving all the other hens insane. Things settled down and it was time to go but Chrysanthamum, one of our two Silver Laced Wyandottes, was missing. We combed the neighborhood yelling, “Chrysanthamum.” (Do chickens recognize their names like dogs?)

After 20 minutes of looking I resigned myself to losing our first bird. I imagined a hawk swooping down in an instant, leaving no trace. Or a giant neighborhood cat or a dog or even those feisty suburban hamsters. Who knows? She was gone. We were a farm under attack. Chicken kidnappers on the loose.

I was headed to my car when Nancy called out that she found her. Turns out she was sick of the drama of the nest and carved out a nice secluded nesting area under the dense asters alongside the house. Determined to teach her a lesson, I plucked her up with both hands and went to put her in the nest before she could lay the egg. That’s what my chicken farmer friends told me to do with renegade layers. Just as I reached for the door of the coop I heard a hard thud by my foot. Chrysanthamum had dropped her egg like a grenade from four feet up, or maybe I squeezed it out of her, but in a miracle of oyster shell supplements the egg didn’t break.

After chasing Chrysanthamum around for 10 minutes this morning I gave up and let her lay her egg in the asters. At least I don’t have to post a bunch of “Missing Chicken” posters around the neighborhood.