Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Egg Watch 2016 - Raising Chickens

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no 
seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that 
you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.

--Henry David Thoreau                          

I marvel every time a seed germinates. I will never get over that feeling of joyful incredulity when a seed sprouts and begins its journey to a full plant. Although I know that seeds want to germinate, I always worry that I will do something wrong and disrupt the natural order of things. This is why, when sowing new seeds, I keep a ridiculous watch on the soil surface day after day, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

I find myself in a similar situation with the chickens these days, albeit on a much larger scale. After having studied chicken books assiduously, I know that I'm supposed to start expecting eggs between weeks 18 and 24. Now that the chickens are 19 weeks old, Egg Watch 2016 has begun in earnest. 

Vanessa likes to be the first one out in the morning

In preparation for the blessed event, last week I took down the hardware cloth that has barred the girls from entering the nesting boxes. Then I lined them with a layer of hay to make the spaces a little more inviting. Turfman graciously donated a sleeve of golf balls to the effort, which are supposed to encourage the girls to lay their eggs in the right spot. Virginia inspected my work and seems to be the most interested in the space. The other day, when I opened the nesting box door, I found her peering out at me from the coop's lower roost. She's been hanging out in there longer than the others the last few days, which makes me wonder if she'll be the first. 

The training "egg"

Apparently, there are signs that may signal the time is getting closer. I inspect their wattles and combs each day, anxious for growth and a little more color. Last night I read that I should be looking for a submissive squat when I reach my hand out to them, so they'll be subjected to another bizarre form of inspection in the coming days. I still think we're a couple of weeks out, though.

Virginia is the furthest along (she's on the left)

Virginia's developing wattles and comb

I am prepared to expect wonders from them, but I do have quite a bit of the doubting Thomas in me. "Trust but verify" seems a perfectly reasonable motto. I'm not sure how I will respond when I see the first egg resting somewhere in the coop or run, but I suspect it will be very similar to the moment when I first see the curled neck of a seedling pushing out of the soil. It will be bathed in a heavenly light, and I'll hear some angelic choir singing. It may, in fact, seem like it's golden. Then I'll finally take a deep breath and relax in the reassurance that I haven't somehow screwed up the most natural of things.