Farms can be about many things, but two of the constant forces to offer definition to farm life are these: birth and death. Birth on a farm usually happens in the spring, but death can come at any time. This past week I had to deal with the corpses of two banty roosters, two playful young birds who grew up together at Rock's Roost. They were playmates as well as fierce protectors of the hens. It was their devotion to the girls that led to their deaths at the talons of a predator hawk.
Nothing has been born at the farm yet, but I expect that to change this spring when the hens start becoming broody. The peacocks appear to also be preparing to mate. At my last farm several years ago I watched baby goats being born on a few occasions, and even had to get personally involved in pulling one baby out of his mother during an especially rough delivery. Both survived - as did I!
Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I did witness something close to a birth. I was working in the hen house in the afternoon, placing fresh wood shavings in the nesting boxes, when I cam across a lone hen sitting quietly in a box. As I was working on the box next to hers, I suddenly heard the hen giving a low growl. I stepped back to observe. The little hen stood up in her box, she had to do so in a stooped position, and quit growling. She began staring quietly into my eyes. She appeared to be suffering in silent agony. Suddenly a wave of relief seemed to cross her feathered face as ker-plop, an egg dropped into the box. I have collected thousands of eggs over the years, but that was the first time I have ever seen one actually being delivered.
The hen took a moment or two to get her bearings before climbing out of the box and beginning to cluck her egg song. Meanwhile, the farmer snatched the egg.
It was an Easter Egg!
To honor that significant farm event, I searched for a poem about chickens laying eggs - to no avail. Instead I have chosen the poem, "Labor Pains," by twentieth century Japanese poet Yosano Akiko. My little red hen certainly looked as though she would have been very sympathetic to the sentiments of this poet.
(I played the role of the prattling doctor in this little barnyard drama.)
by Yosano Akiko