COLUMN — Dan and Jody Spark take turns writing for The Armchair Mayor News about life on their acreage in McLure.
One thing I love about our eggs, besides their nutritional content, is their beautiful colours.
We have collected a number of different breeds of chickens over the years, which has enabled us to deliver a lovely clutch of coloured eggs to our customers. The Marans give us dark brown eggs, the Americaunas give us blue eggs, and all our other breeds give us variations of colours from creamy rose to nutmeg.
And although brown eggs are synonymous with farm eggs, one colour I really wanted is plain old grocery-store white. I wanted white because I think it will compliment our clutch, so a neighbour graciously gave me eight fertile Houdan eggs. If we are fortunate to get pullets, they will lay white eggs upon maturity.
I just happened to have a couple of hens that were so broody they’d sit on rocks if you let them, so I marked each egg with an “11” for the date and stuffed the eggs under their fluff to incubate for three weeks. I then instructed every Sparkling to not take any 11 eggs, and the waiting game began.
Just before this time, we decided we also needed to add more laying hens to our flock, so I found a farm selling one-year-old Leghorns and bought three. They were a nearly identical trio and, as per our tradition at Shalom Acres, we tried to come up with names. The three musketeers? Nah. The three amigos? Nope. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Perfect . . . except our hens are female. The gender difference could be overlooked this time, we decided.
The question was: would the rest of the flock pick on the new additions? Would there be initiations? Would it be like going through the fiery furnace, just like the real Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? Pondering the possibility of chicken froshing, we put them in the pen and hoped they would be accepted.
Meanwhile, we continued to collect eggs — avoiding 11s — and noticed the newcomers had started to lay themselves, and nice eggs at that.
Then the 11 eggs started to disappear. First one, then a couple more. It was early in the incubation period, so we didn’t worry about half-formed chicks being eaten, but where on earth were they going? There wasn’t even any shell evidence to be found.
The number of 11 eggs trickled down further and further. Plus, we noticed the daily amount of eating eggs were reduced as well.
The mystery ignited our imaginations. Son Sparkling wondered if it was a coyote or fox (there was no sign of predator entry into the pen). I googled if marmots ate eggs (at one time, one was living under the coop), Eldest Sparkling dreamed there was a homeless family living near the chicken pen that was taking our eggs. I told her I was glad we could feed them.
By the time it was just a few days before the eggs’ due date, we had only three. Then two the next day, and we all shuddered to think of the fate of the poor chick in the third missing egg, so close to hatch.
Our two remaining “11” eggs hatched into sweet black and yellow puffed chicks, which I hastily moved into an empty coop — now called the nursery — with a broody hen. The new chicks were safe.
It was then I also noticed some of the eggs we did collect had curious crater-like dents in them. Almost as if they had been pecked. By a chicken beak. This had never happened to us before. This was something new.
I looked at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They cocked their heads at me. Time to change your names, egg eaters. I gave the trio a sandal shove and the two fingered eye-to-eye.
“I’m watching you, Snap, Crackle and Pop.”
Dan and Jody Spark are in their fourth year of living their back-to-the-land dream on their small acreage at McLure and they are having the time of their life.