It’s downright humiliating to buy eggs at the grocery store when you own six chickens, yet for the past few weeks that’s exactly what we’ve been forced to do. Since our hens aren’t crammed into a building filled with artificial light, their laying habits ebb and flow as nature intended. They aren’t so interested in laying eggs this time of year in the first place, and to add insult to injury, one of them just molted (no eggs are forthcoming during that time) and another is getting up there in years (henopause may have already set in).

Now, there’s no question we enjoy our chickens as pets as much as we appreciate their vital contributions to our big Sunday morning breakfasts. But still. We miss those farm fresh omelettes. So when Daisy recently showed some interest in an old pile of straw in the corner of the garage, we couldn’t help feel a twinge of encouragement.

It’s not that we don’t supply the ladies ample space for laying. A throwback to when we had 45 hens several years ago, are our two sets of double-decker nest boxes. This is just one of them.

When all the hens are laying, some do indeed utilize these nice boxes. Daisy, however, is one of our newest chickens, adopted from a neighbor a while back.

Along with Daisy came a blond beauty by the name of Lyla.

The two of them struggled a little to adapt to our dual henhouse situation (another throwback to having had 45 hens), as well as to the freedom offered them when we threw open the door to the chicken run. While our other four hens would scamper past us madly, Daisy and Lyla remained shy and stayed within the wire-walled compound.

Eventually they got the hang of it – and now are always the first to rush outside – but on two occasions we did discover a lone egg in the middle of the run after the ladies had all exited the premises. Knowing that Daisy and Lyla were unaccustomed to the nest boxes, we assumed the eggs had come from one or both of them.

Time passed. Store-bought eggs enveloped fresh farm greens for our Sunday morning omelettes. (Thank goodness for those greens!) Then finally – finally! – Daisy sat on the old pile of straw in the corner of the garage. When she got up, there it was.

I was working at the salad station at the other end of the building while Daisy was “busy,” and made a point to leave her alone so as not to startle her into losing her train of thought. Lyla, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly so polite. During the half hour or so it took Daisy to accomplish her good deed, Lyla paced back and forth, back and forth, five feet in front of the nest, grumbling her impatience with a guttural “rrrrrr rrrrrr rrrrrr.”

I’d hoped perhaps Lyla was wanting her turn on the straw, but alas, she was simply waiting for Daisy to finish so they could meander off together.

I called the other humans into the garage to show them what a fine job Daisy had done. As we oooh’d and aaaah’d over the egg still nestled in the straw, Miss Red pranced into the garage and noticed it herself. Immediately, she began clucking and strutting as if she had produced the egg.

“Who do you think you’re kidding?!” Farmer John exclaimed. Miss Red looked away in embarrassment.

The hard truth is, until she starts to ante up her own donation to our breakfasts again – even if not enough for a full-fledged omelette, a couple sunny-side-ups would do – she’ll be hearing no congratulatory whoops from us.

I felt a little badly for Miss Red. She was so excited there for a minute, I think she really believed it was her egg. I’m convinced she’ll get into the swing of things, though, once the daylight hours begin to lengthen again. Her heart is certainly in the right place.

***Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand Wednesday:

Five varieties of cabbage – tender & sweet Farao cabbage, Napa cabbage, purple cabbage, green storage cabbage and crinkly savoy cabbage; sweet white turnips w/greens (the most we’ve had so far this season!); lettuce mix; Provencal lettuce/chicory mix; butterhead lettuce; romaine lettuce; Farmer John’s “holiday lettuce” (heads of red leaf/green leaf lettuces bound together); spinach; bunches of chard; dinosaur kale and curly kale; bunches of collards; purple and golden beets; big heads of escarole; cilantro; bags of broccoli side shoots; and some crazy-looking (yet delicious!) Romanesco cauliflower.

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm
Farm stands:
In Jonestown on FM1431 at the blinking yellow light, Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.;
In NW Austin on Jollyville Road between Oak Knoll and Duval (at the Asian American Cultural Center), Wednesdays 10 a.m.- 2 p.m.