This morning when I, for the millionth time, started picking up recently-laid eggs and marveling at the little differences between them, I detected the slightest hint of an eye-roll from Mark. Mark loves the eggs and he loves the chickens. But it’s difficult for anyone to keep up with my ongoing fascination with THE EGGS and so, recognising that he might have had enough of my eggy ravings, I’m going to share them with you.
THE THING IS, THE EGGS ARE JUST SO AMAZING.
I just can’t get over the fact that the darling hens, with their constant scratching, little bleating noises and clucks, pecking, excitement over OMGMEALWORMS and deranged vertical jumping after FLIES are, at all times, somewhere within their mysterious internal passages, building and shelling the pearly rounded wonder of AN EGG.
I had extra cause to contemplate just how amazing eggs are when, right before Easter weekend, our dear Lauryn took ill with a mysterious EGGY COMPLICATION.
For context, Lauryn is normally the most boisterous hen, AKA Mark’s favourite. You can see her standing proud on the right of this picture.
When worms are being dug up or distributed as treats, Lauryn makes sure that she gets THE MOST. If a cat is foolish enough to walk into our garden it is Lauryn who will See It Off. And as the self-appointed spokeshen for The Chickens, Lauryn can very often be found officiously making demands at the door of the pen such as WHY ARE WE NOT ALLOWED TO DEMOLISH THE SEEDLINGS? WE SEE THEM AND DEMAND OUR LIBERTY SO THAT WE CAN CHOW DOWN ON THEM AND SCRATCH THEM OUT AT THE ROOTS.
Sometimes I think there has been a mix up, and Lauryn is actually a tiny little gingery, feathered dragon.
But, just before the Easter weekend, Lauryn was very evidently not herself.
With none of her usual vim or vigour, she was sulking in the corner; allowing other hens to have the best of the treats without protest; and looking unsure of how/where to sit. We did all the usual hen-care things; epsom-salt bath (AKA Chicken spa day); deluxe indoor hotel overnight; special calcium-garnished OMGMEALWORMS treats; fuss; tonic-water and a hot-water bottle wrapped in brown paper.
But no egg, and no improvement.
Luckily we have a good vet near here who know about poultry, and they advised us to bring Lauryn in for a check up. I broke social-isolation to drive there with Mark and, as per the very sensible social-distancing measures of the practice, we deposited Lauryn in the car-park in her chicken crate several metres from us. From here, she was collected and taken into the surgery by the vet, who emerged a few moments later to discuss the situation from a safe distance through our open car window.
“Well I’ve pulled one soft egg out of her, but she’s clearly *full* of eggs. I don’t want to go poking about too much in there, so I’m thinking of giving her a calcium shot to boost up her internal calcium reserves, and some oxytocin to help her push out the remaining eggs.”
With a thumbs up from us, the vet disappeared back inside the building and then re-emerged a few moments later with a rather proud looking Lauryn sitting happily beside a freshly-laid and correctly-shelled egg. The vet explained that he’d got as far as giving her the calcium shot when she dutifully produced this second egg, so he was going to hold off on the oxytocin as it seemed unnecessary to be giving her hormones when her laying system is clearly working well.
The soft-egg that the vet had removed from Lauryn is something that most poultry will occasionally produce; it’s like the membrane part of an egg, but without the hard outer shell. We’ve had several of these over the last few years from all our birds, and they are usually a sign that either changes in weather or hormones or the laying pattern are occurring, or that a bird is low in calcium. It’s harder to push out an egg that has no firm outer shell, so I think that in the case of Lauryn’s pre-Easter weekend MALAISE, the soft egg must have temporarily blocked her egg vent. After the vet had removed it, there was still some yolk about, which coated the normal, shelled-egg which followed in a sort of yellow layer. After we paid the vet’s £49 bill over the phone, it really did recall a mythical GOLDEN EGG. Myself and Lauryn admired it in the crate beside her; Mark, I fear, was rather less impressed.
When we got home, my anxious vigil of watching and checking for further signs of EGGY WEIRDNESS continued and I monitored Lauryn in a fussing, clucking, mother-hen-ish type of way. Observing the laying behaviour of the chickens was very sweet; they fuss over whose turn it is, they go in and out of the house excitedly, taking turns to make an egg and occasionally skawking/fighting over whose go it is. Sometimes when the laying for the day is complete, Missy will sneak back into the house and cuddle up on top of the eggs. I noticed during my vigil that Lauryn was spending a long time in the hen house one morning, so I went out to see her. Perhaps knowing something wasn’t quite right, she was tugging at an egg laid by another hen and sort of thoughtfully pulling it under herself, as if to say “I know this nice strong egg is what I want to make. Please let me make this kind of egg again” and I marvelled at her instinctive chicken wisdom. The chickens are not bright, as anyone who has spent any time with chickens will know… but after watching Lauryn for this past while, I am convinced they are possessed of a kind of bodily EGG WISDOM.
Following her moody spell in the hen-house, Lauryn laid a very strange egg – a soft egg WITHIN a soft egg. Would you like to see? I am weirdly egg-obsessed in case you hadn’t noticed, but I do get that not everyone will be as excited by this anomily as I am, so if you are squeamish you might want to scroll past quickly.
Behold, a weird egg within an egg! It’s an egg membrane, filled with egg-white, in which there is an INTERIOR EGG which has a half-formed soft, chalky shell around it.
THE MIND BOGGLES.
To me this amazing object speaks to the complexity of the egg-laying system and apparatus of the chicken. Even after studying several diagrams of the interior workings of a hen, I am not sure how Lauryn produced THIS MARVEL. However, this EGGY WEIRDNESS was also a sign to continue dosing Lauryn with calcium shots. I have some food-grade calcium carbon powder which I mix with water and then put into a syringe; Mark and I team up to hold Lauryn and squirt this chalky mess into her mouth, and since we’ve been doing this – touch wood – all her eggs have been normal. I’ve also been mixing calcium carbonate powder with all the treats I give the hens, and am trying to keep their oyster shell and grit feeder full at all times (though they are wont to fill it with mud from time to time, which is un co-operative of them if you ask me). Sometimes as well I pound up their egg shells and feed them back to them, to try and replenish their interior mineral reserves, which are constantly being drained by THE EGG PRODUCTION PROCESS.
After all this, the symbolism of eggs around Easter held an extra-special resonance for me this year.
I am not a Christian and for me, Easter has for a long time been a secular holiday of giving thanks for the spring, for the new life, for the seedlings and the newborn animals that mark the start of various and important agricultural and natural growing cycles. After spending time with poorly Lauryn and nursing her back to full egg-laying strength, no chocolate-covered, praline-encrusted hazelnut-wonder egg could compare to the relief, the beauty, the magnificence and wonder, of a nice brown ordinary hen egg from her, and seeing her full chicken/dragon powers restored.
The seedlings are once again under threat from her beak; the neighbourhood cats must beware; and little darling Lauryn and all my other beautiful chickens keep on laying eggs. I couldn’t be more thankful for them, and for that, and so every morning must inevitably – at least for the foreseeable future – begin with reverence for the SO AMAZING EGGS.
YOURS IN ALL THE EGGS,
and thank you for reading my EGGY POST,