One sign of spring is farm-fresh eggs! I don’t think that many Americans realize that eggs are a seasonal item. Their appearance in spring is one reason why we think about eggs at Easter.
If you stop to think about it, most birds don’t lay eggs in wintertime, and so neither do chickens—according to nature, anyway. The reason we have hens’ eggs in our grocery stores year-round is because big commercial egg farmers manipulate the photoperiod using artificial light to trick the chickens into not having any idea what day, month, or season it is! There are no calendars in commercial chicken houses.
Before farmers figured out how to fool the chickens with electric lights, and before refrigeration was available, it was a real game for people to figure out how to preserve eggs during the months when hens weren’t laying. To give you an idea of this chore, here’s a quote from The Hearthstone; or, Life at Home: A Household Manual, written by Laura C. Holloway, published in 1883:
To keep Eggs Fresh.—One of the best means of preserving eggs is the following: Select good fresh eggs and pack endwise in a mixture of equal parts of fine dry charcoal and salt (cold). Keep in a cool, dry place until required for use. A thin coating of gum or a trace of oil will prevent loss of moisture through the shell. The best time for preserving eggs is from July to September.
So anyway, there are still some chickens in this land, our land, that do natural things, like scratch in the dirt, flap their stubby wings and go clumsily airborne (as chickens do), peck at corn, strut around and cluck, nibble on grasses, capture beetles, and listen to robins singing on these fine spring mornings. And they do know what season it is: It’s the season to lay eggs!
My friend Rhoda lives in Columbia and has chickens, and now that her hens are producing again, she let it be known (Facebook to the rescue!) that she was ready for buyers again. (Note: if you are reading this and are wanting to contact her, let me know, and I’ll put you in touch. Realize—she’s not a commercial chicken farmer, so she doesn’t have a bazillion to sell.)
For my Central Missouri friends who are wondering, hers is not one of the backyard-chicken-coops that have recently become lawful in the city of Columbia (last year the city council passed an ordinance permitting it—cool, huh?)—she’s actually zoned “Agricultural.”
Anyway—what a great thing! Happy chickens, awesome eggs.
I love it that they’re all different colors, shapes, and patterns. Sometimes you want a smaller egg; sometimes you want a great big one. And the variety reminds me of the fact that each of her chickens are individuals—I don’t know if she has names for them, but they are certainly far from being anonymous, confused birds in little boxes.
Having awesome eggs makes me want to do something special with them.