Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Golden Fruit

A riddle for you: In a marble hall white as milk, lined with skin as soft as silk. Within a fountain crystal-clear, a golden apple doth appear. No doors there are to this stronghold, yet thieves break in to steal its gold. And another: A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.
It’s an egg, of course! When I was a young girl I wanted to raise chickens so I ordered 500 baby chickens from a catalog. They came and in three days they all died. I was disappointed but determined. I ordered 500 more baby chicks and would you believe, they all died within 3 days too? I gave up on raising chickens but I never did figure out what I was doing wrong. I was pretty sure though that I was either planting them too deep or too close together.
 I’m pulling your leg with that old joke--I have kept chickens for fresh eggs since I was about nineteen years old. It seems like there has always been a flock in my life. A contented clucking in the chicken pen, delighted squawking when an egg has been laid, and yes, even the noise of a rooster indicate that all is as it should be in life. 
My first chickens were white Leghorns that we bought for a dollar each. They had been cage chickens sold when they were past their peak laying time (these were about 18 months old) and they had no idea of how to roost, scratch or do any other chicken-y kind of thing. Their claws were so long they curled back and their combs were huge and floppy. After a few weeks in their new home they learned to scratch in the dirt, to nest in boxes and their claws quickly wore off to a more reasonable length. They laid lots of eggs, defying the logic of the commercial breeders that they were not economical to keep.

It wasn’t long before I wanted brown-egg hens, so we added big plump Rhode Island Reds that did not lay as well, ate a lot more but were calm and gentle, something that could not be said for the Leghorns. As years passed we raised many other varieties—Buff Orpingtons, Araucanas, Americaunas, Domineckers, Silver-laced Wyandottes, White Rocks, Golden Comets and others. I love getting different color eggs; some years our egg basket would be filled with white, buff, blue, green, brown, tan and even lightly speckled eggs. Who needs to dye eggs at Easter when they come like that straight from the hens?

I have heard many superstitions about eggs and chickens over the years. For example, did you know that some people will put an egg shell in their coffee grounds when the coffee is perking? They claim the coffee tastes better that way. Others will bury egg shells next to certain plants in their gardens to provide more calcium for the growing vegetables. One lady told me that witches will use empty egg shells for boats and go sailing around in them, so I should always break a hole in an egg shell in the shape of a cross, or crush the shell, to prevent that from happening.  Finding a double yolk egg means either someone you know is getting married soon or will be having twins.  It might also be interpreted as a sign of good luck coming your way, or financial improvement in your life. An egg with no yolk at all is very bad, however—a certain bringer of bad luck.

This year we'll be getting baby chicks again, I think. Our hens are three or four years old and slowing down. What kind will we get? I'm hoping for some Aracaunas, and maybe a few Barred Rocks, and some Golden Comets. We'll see!

For more chicken riddles, check out this older blog post!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Quinn said...

One of my roosters is crowing right now, Sue!

Mac n' Janet said...

I would love to keep chickens, but it's not allowed where we live. We're sponsoring a friend's chickens.
Loved your story, gave me a chuckle.

Brighid said...

Hadn't heard some of these chicken tales before, interesting. I miss my chickens. Maude was a huge Aracauna and ever a source of fun. When she wanted me to dig earthworms she would run back and forth between me and the garden shovel til I dug up a patch for her...

annie said...

great post1

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