I have to admit and even I am surprised, but I am actually enjoying having chickens.
Racquel and Molly — they came with names — are perfect ladies and are actually kind of neat to have around.
They don’t like to be touched, but by the same token they like to shadow me everywhere I go .
And they really are super low maintenance plus they earn their keep.
If they can keep the flies down this year, that alone is good enough for me and they seem to be off to a good start, spending much of their time in manure piles.
Add to that the two eggs they lay every day and they really show their worth.
The only thing I have found difficult in the whole thing is reaping the spoils. I know it may seem stupid, but I’m a little hung up on eating the eggs.
I grew up eating fresh eggs and never thought about it once, but somewhere between the barn and fridge, my appetite for them gets lost.
Everyone has said how wonderful they are, and how great the flavor is and that I will never want bleached, store-bought eggs again, but I’m not there yet.
My first trial run was last week when I boiled half a dozen with some store-bought eggs.
I had decided to make egg salad, thinking I could ease into eating them if they were covered in mayonnaise and spices.
They smelled stronger than the other eggs as soon as I peeled the shells off, and the yokes were bright orange so I added extra spices just in case.
I bravely ate a couple of sandwiches and discovered the taste was doable, but what I didn’t expect was the ever-so-slightly upset stomach that followed.
Knowing there was nothing wrong with the eggs, I asked a biologist friend what she thought.
“Well, you’re probably just not used to the…” she tapered off.
“Bacteria?” I asked.
“Yeah, I just didn’t want to use that word and freak you out,” she answered.
I wasn’t freaked out, in fact that was pretty much the reason I had such a hard time eating them to begin with.
It turns out the biggest perk of having chickens is also the least appetizing thing about the eggs.
They spend all day, and I do mean all day, digging through horse poo in search of juicy larvae — I’m sure maggots are a delicacy in the chicken world — and any other crunchy, green blooded exoskeletal morsels they can find.
Now I like mushrooms, and most vegetables are fertilized by manure.
And theoretically, anything icky that got into the chicken should be filtered out by the internal organs, but it’s still a kind of gross thought.
It didn’t help when someone said what the chicken eats probably does end up in the eggs because the flavor will change if they’re fed onions and the like.
But rather than focus on the negative, that got me thinking.
Beekeepers put bees on clover and lavender and other fancy plants to enhance the flavor of the honey, then mark up the price because it’s instantly more palatable.
What if I fed my chickens carefully selected foods?
I could have garlic or onion flavored eggs, or dill or oregano…
Heck, I could even feed them all the egg salad spices I use and then just add mayonnaise later — and the best part is there wouldn’t be any little pepper particles to get stuck in your teeth.
I took an informal poll and got some interesting ideas of things to feed them:
Cheese for a ready to go omelet, barbecue or enchilada sauce, bacon and sausage.
Or one of my favorite ideas — chocolate and strawberries or cherries…
Yet as I evaluate the imaginary chicken diet, I can hear the scanner at the grocery going “beep-beep-beep” and envision the receipt getting longer and longer while little baby flies spring from manure piles in the barn.
And I can see myself out in the hot sun with long scratches on my arms as I battle with a roll of wire in an attempt to build a coop that can’t be breached so their food can be controlled.
Which leaves me two choices: Have faith in their little kidneys and livers, or start regifting their eggs to all those people who don’t seem to care.
In the true spirit of “waste not want not,” I think I’ll go with option one for now, and I’m sure I’ll get over it.
But at a rate of 14 eggs a week there isn’t much room for doubt, so if news surfaces of lovely brown eggs turning up on doorsteps around town, don’t panic — after all, they say faith is best shared.
Sharna Johnson is a staff writer for Freedom New Mexico. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org