“The only thing that ever sat its way to success was a hen.” – Sarah Brown
Shortly after moving to the family farm in the 1980’s, my husband convinced me that we should try raising some chickens for butchering purposes and also some for laying eggs. My mother-in-law had done this for decades but now that they had moved into town, I think she was hoping that we would continue the practice. The idea of having fresh eggs available on a daily basis was quite appealing and I naively thought, “How difficult can this be?”
So the following spring we ordered 50 birds for the purpose of becoming egg producers. My husband felt that if each chicken laid an egg every other day we would be picking about 2 dozen per day. This seemed like a reasonable number and one that we could handle, but those darn birds had a different plan in mind.
Right from the get-go those cluckers proved to be very prolific providers. At first we were quite pleased with the output, but after collecting almost 4 dozen eggs every day for weeks on end, we quickly became overwhelmed.
We had no fancy equipment which meant cleaning was done the old-fashioned way: by hand. Along with preparing lessons and marking assignments every night (I was teaching full-time), I now found myself cleaning eggs as well, not to mention all the other jobs that come with running a household. And if I missed a night, which often happened because of other commitments, the backlog made the job an even more time-consuming task.
My mother-in-law had sold the excess eggs, but who had time for a sales campaign and then deliveries, so I just took to giving them away. I gave them to anyone who showed the slightest inkling of needing eggs, but pretty soon my relatives and friends were also inundated and politely declined my offerings. It came to the point where instead of taking a bottle of wine as a hostess gift when we were invited out, I arrived with cartons of eggs.
My deep freeze was now full of baking (especially recipes that used many eggs) in an attempt to use them up, but even though some of you might think this can’t be bad thing, there are only so many angel food cakes that a person can eat!
My idyllic country dream of picking fresh eggs in a cheery, gingham-lined basket had turned into a nightmare of pails (you know, the ones from ice-cream) of unwashed eggs lined up on my kitchen counter. And no matter how often we tried to change the straw in the nests, those mud-scratchers seemed to find every messy spot in the chicken yard.
The reality was that a smelly chicken coop needed to be cleaned on a regular basis and that feed pails sat by our back door in the winter so they wouldn’t freeze in the garage. Not a pretty sight and not my idea of country décor!
We persevered for a few more years but finally I had enough and issued an ultimatum to my husband (who, I must admit, tried his best to help out) – it was me or the chickens! I am pleased to say that we celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary this past summer, so it was bye-bye birdies. (Forgive me for my bad puns.)
The only time I miss having all those eggs is this time of year when I am looking for perfect specimens for Easter egg writing, or, as Ukrainians call it, pysanky. Otherwise I much prefer to buy my eggs from the store.