A sign of longer, bright days as our clucking hens lay first eggs
Around 8am last Tuesday morning, our nine-year-old daughter, Sarah, came prancing into the kitchen. "Mammy, I have something to show you." I was busy getting breakfast and lunches but could see from her face that it was something important so I duly laid down my weapons and gave her my full attention.
"Now, close your eyes," she said. I did. "Now open them," she said, having whipped the subject matter from behind her back. My eyes opened wide in genuine surprise and delight at what she was holding, a newly-laid egg, the first of the season.
And I readily admit that it lifted my spirits. For a few moments, I marvelled anew at the miracle of egg-laying (as far back as ancient Egypt, the hen was revered as the bird which gives birth every day) and a tingle of hope for longer, brighter days stirred my heart. Simple pleasures.
Winter was late arriving and, by any stretch of the imagination, it hasn't been a hard winter - so far. In fact we have only recently had a bit of cold but the unseasonal warmth running up to Christmas was an imposter who fooled plants into peeping up their heads when the days were still shortening.
The year has now turned and this feels right, it feels good. We got the first of these hens almost three years ago when they were on the point of laying and this is the first winter that they actually stopped.
There have been some casualties in the meantime and, at this point, they number four, a Rhode Island Red, a Speckled Maran, a Sussex cross and a Black Rock. Throughout last year we got 2-3 eggs every day, so we don't know if that means one or more of them has retired or they are all still laying, just not every day.
The day will come when they stop laying for good. So what happens then? Our girls know well what comes on their plates but we still play a little game in which nobody is allowed to mention eating ch**ken, in case the feathered girls might hear. So we never have roast chuck for supper, but we do have lots of roast 'flamingo'.