As we approached the back of the house, she called, “Girls! Girls!” and the “girls” came barreling toward us, chatting like crazy. They are pets who lay eggs, six gregarious hens wearing plumage colored cream to umber.
My friend and her husband are familiar with farming and animal husbandry. She used to herd sheep on a motorcycle.
After greeting the chattering hens, I said, “I’ll bet their shells are substantial.”
Commercial eggs (I don’t want to THINK about how the hens are kept) have more fragile shells. The Orpington ladies have eggs that one has to crack more than once to get to the good stuff, and the shells are the color of bisque, heavy and silky smooth. What glorious eggs! (Note: Proper feed will produce proper shells - it’s not up to the chickens.)
When evening comes, the hens run into the hen house, its door closed against predators. Deer aren’t a problem, but coyotes are. As you know, some of us are responsible for the encroachment of industry, the loss of habitat. What to do? Don’t look at me: I’m a conservationist, a tree-hugger, a green person. Having said that, I confess that I am partly responsible for the baby boom. Back to a different sort of egg . . .
These hens are glorious, their plumage a mixture of cream to umber, each one fat and healthy. One of them is so broody that my friend has decided to accept a beautiful rooster from another breeder. On the other hand, she doesn’t want more chicks than she can place. Even only six hens could produce ’way too many chicks for the circumstances. I love roosters, a cock crowing is one of the most delightful sounds, whether a declaration that a new day has begun or just giving an opinion.
Along with the chickens, there is a chocolate Lab who’s more horse than dog – and exuberant. Very funny. There is also a neutered cat who is friendly and enjoys the chickens. What a lovely experience I had, the sun warm and the air filled with the chatter of chickens who had plenty to say. My friend and her husband are fine gardeners, the chickens right there to offer commentary.
The county I live in once had 500-some farms. Someone told me that’s on the light side. Now it has eighty, although I haven’t checked lately. Farming is wonderful; it’s also very tough to sometimes dangerous since horse and plow has been usurped by very useful, very loud, machinery. Those who have never farmed are often nostalgic for an experience they’ve never had. Some of us believe we’ve had the experience when we were merely visitors, perhaps for a summer or maybe only a day. Yes, there is something so compelling about the idea of farming. I remember running fingers through oat seeds, their silkiness pleasing to the hand. Some of my fondest memories are connected to farms, particularly the animals. If you have the opportunity to visit or even spend some time on a working farm, don’t pass it up.
The Orpington has a bit of history, was originally black and from Orpington, England.