Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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Chickens are not just for eggs anymore

For those of you who still think eggs come from cartons in the grocery store, there is so much more to the lowly chicken than Eggs Benedict. I have raised chickens for over 30 years and everyday, I find them to be a source of comfort, joy and nonsense. 

I have 9 ladies in my backyard flock. Each of them distinctly different from the other and the term pecking order definitely applies. There are those who are higher in the order and rule the roost without the distraction of a crowing rooster. Then there are those who prefer to remain invisible, hoping only to get their fair share of the feed and are willing to wait their turn in the nesting box. The few at the bottom of the order are usually the youngest and find their strength in numbers, looking out for one another as they are shoved to the back of the line.

My coop remodel project this year has been waylaid, due to surgery and chemo, but I hired out the work to rebuild the 30 plus year old hen house and move the chickens to north side of the garden. The reason for the move was the development of a flood plain in the old location. Hip waders became necessary to feed them. I was raising chickens not pigs.

Friends tried to encourage me to let the chickens go. With all I had to deal with, this was one chore that seemed unnecessary. But when I arrived home from the hospital, there they were questioning where I had been with their bobbing heads and fluttering wings. They clucked and cooed when I came outside, huddling around me in solidarity. They followed me to the shed as I grabbed a small handful of feed to scatter for them. "She's home," they chirped in unison and there was a gaggle of twitter and cheep noises to welcome me.

The new coop was built to my needs and is much easier for the grandchildren to gather the eggs. The funny thing is, I don't like eggs. Oh, I bake with them, but I do not cook them. My ladies are not here for the eggs they produce, but for entertainment, comic relief, organic wisdom and down to earth companionship. A neighbor's chicken comes over every day to visit and and hops the fence to go home at night. There is another hen, who became a rooster after three years (that's another story). There is Sadie, a Rhode Island Red, who insists on jumping into my arms every morning, and Lucy, who feels it more appropriate to pull on my pant leg. 

For a few pennies of feed a day, I am thanked with eggs to give to family, mornings filled with chatter and busy talk, and stories to tell about Mother Nature's funniest creatures. What's in your carton?



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