The Strawberries Are Coming

Day 37 of 365

Tonight, I am worn, just not as worn as my husband. Ron is expanding our little homestead and having to build a new fenced area for new chickens. He chops cedars, digs holes, and installs fencing all by himself. I don’t even know how he does it.

But when he’s doing that from dark to dark, I am doing all the other stuff. If you have ever lived on a farm or homestead, you know that “all the other stuff” is a lot.

But I have quick updates from life here on Sands End Farm:

  1. The baby Eastern Phoebes are still around! I saw them playing in the yard near the strawberries today. I am over the moon about this, but that empty nest is still tough to see.
  2. Today, when I was grading essays and trying to entertain my adopted brood at the same time, I discovered that my little Lavender Orpingtons, who are the sweetest birds I think I have ever seen, will sit on my arms while I am typing on my computer. They just ride along as I moved my hands from different keys. I have to get a picture of this soon.
  3. And the strawberries are coming. Strawberries are my favorite food in the history of ever. I will have to write more about them soon, but we had about a dozen ripe strawberries today, and the beds are fuller than I have ever seen them. I am hopeful!

Ruby Loves Eggs, Too

Day 2 of 365

Last night, I put eight hatching eggs under our first broody hen of the season. Her name is Ruby.

One day per week, we drive an hour and a half to Augusta for our son’s orchestra rehearsals. It just so happened that the breeder I contacted about getting some Salmon Faverolle hatching eggs is based outside of Augusta. So, last evening, right before rehearsals, I met the breeder in a grocery store parking lot and got this carton of eggs full of potential for adding a fantastic breed of chicken to our flock. I have been interested in this breed for some time, and I am excited to get these hatching eggs from a reputable breeder, Why Not Farms.

But the best story in all of this is about Ruby. Ruby looks almost like a red version of a Salmon Faverolle, but she is simply a barnyard mix. She is part Easter Egger, part Welsummer, and part Rhode Island Red, and somehow she is just magnificent to look at. She’s so unique–inside and out.

Ruby is a talker. She’s one of the most vocal chickens I have ever met, and as near as I can tell, she likes to complain. She’s low in the pecking order, and I’m pretty sure she complains about the injustice of this. I think she might also complain about wanting treats. She wants to be treated fairly, and Juliet, my most favorite misfit chicken gets treats every day when she flies over the fence from the chicken yard. Ruby, observing this, started doing the same and then complaining loudly until she got treats too. After all, fair is fair.

The most interesting thing about Ruby is that I just happened to be out in the coop this February when Ruby laid her first egg ever! Hatched last summer, without artificial light in the coop, Ruby was later to start laying eggs, so I was so excited when I went out to the coop one day this winter and found her in the nest box for the first time. She was standing up, so I knew an egg was coming soon. I watched and waited, and sure enough, a beautiful pale olive green egg landed in the nest box under her.

And what happened next was like nothing I have ever seen: Ruby turned around to observe what had just plopped out of her and had a look on her face of love. She stared a bit at her egg, like it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. And, truly, it was beautiful. The color of her eggs is beautiful.

Eggs are magnificent to me. Part complete nutrition and part work of art, I think eggs are gorgeous. I am not alone in this love for eggs. Chicken people spend a good deal of time taking pictures of eggs and sharing them on Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest. The eggs are posed in baskets, on tables, and if you have a variety of colors, well, then that’s something extra special. Books have been written on eggs. I own two of them. Somehow, Ruby was the first chicken I have ever met who seemed to get how magnificent eggs are. Most of my hens lay an egg and move on.

The way Ruby looked at those eggs was so interesting to me. I came inside and told Ron, “I am betting right now Ruby goes broody this summer.” I posted this prediction on social media. Sure enough, a few weeks ago, Ruby was the first of the flock to go broody.

Of course, once she went broody as I had predicted, I started to question how exactly I knew this was going to happen. I think it’s just from being observant. I can’t tell you for sure if chickens have facial expressions or if I am reading them in a different way, but chickens do express emotions in a way that seems fairly clear to me. Most people I talk to do not seem to grasp this, but it’s true. I see contentment, frustration, concern, hopefulness, and thanks to Ruby, I saw what adoration looks like in a chicken. Temple Grandin, the scientist and animal behaviorist famous for her efforts in changing the way livestock animals are treated, said that animals have emotions just like human animals. It’s just that these emotions are simpler. This makes perfect sense to me.

This morning, Ruby is still on her eggs. When I put the eight hatching eggs under her last night, she attacked me pretty solidly. This morning, I am bruised, but I don’t mind at all. When I finished putting the eggs under her, I watched her wiggle her little self onto that big clutch of eggs with contentment. Hopefully, her love of eggs will mean she’s a good mother. Hopefully, she will love what comes out of the eggs, too.

We have 21 days until we find out.