Even with six chickens, we don’t get many eggs. Two of the hens aren’t laying at all: the Brown Legger, at seven years old, is well into henopause; and Miss Black, much the younger, is hinting at becoming broody and lately finds more interest in plopping herself down on the other hens’ eggs in the hope of hatching one. (That will never happen, as we have no rooster, but try explaining that to Miss Black.)

Miss Red and Daisy are probably both laying eggs…somewhere. The conundrum comes with trying to locate them. Although we keep the hens inside their fenced-in run until 11 a.m. every day, giving them ample time to lay their eggs in the official nest boxes provided for them, more often than not they “hold it” until later.

Occasionally, one of the hens must be in dire enough need to use a nest box, which is always cause for great celebration on our part.

This egg was laid by either Miss Red or Daisy, we know, since Marty the Ameraucana lays blue-green eggs and Lylie the Buff Orpington, though indeed a brown egg-layer, has no desire to lower her standards by utilizing one of the metal boxes. Ever.

When we open the door to the run every morning, all six hens dash out like parolees finally being released from prison after serving 24 years of their 25-year sentence. Once they clear the doorway, at least five of the six make a beeline along the driveway and head for the piles of oak leaves, dirt and other plant debris they spend much of their day kicking around in search of insects and other delectables. Sometimes Lylie joins them. Other times she runs like the dickens to her egg-laying spot du jour, wherever that might be at any certain period.

It’s tough to find secret nests any time of the year, but right now with the property thick with wildflowers tall enough to touch the hem of Farmer John’s t-shirt,

it’s even more difficult.

We did spy Miss Red in a prone position amongst the flowers not long ago, mumbling soft babbling brook sounds that signal deep concentration of the egg-laying matter at hand. A short while later, John went back to the spot thinking he’d gather her egg – and arrived just in time to see a rat snake slither away, it’s belly (or whatever it is that snakes have) no doubt full of that egg.

Fortunately, Lylie has made it easy on us recently by choosing a large rosemary bush in front of the house as her preferred nesting spot. Lylie is a big girl, yet she somehow shimmies way underneath the plant to do her business.

It’s cooler under there, I imagine, and gives her a sense of being hidden. The thing is, though, once a hen gets into the somewhat trancelike state of laying an egg, if interrupted by the threat of someone or something getting too close, she impulsively lets out a sharp staccato yelp. That little yelp was what gave Lylie’s latest secret nesting spot away.

John had heard her there already, and told me about it some time ago. Still, one day when I was carrying a load of heirloom tomatoes to the house, Lylie’s sudden “Er!” startled me so much, I almost dropped the crate. After that, I kept watch, determined to get that darned egg as soon as Lylie wandered off.

That’s the thing about hens, too. While they might be mostly silent during the egg-laying process, they more than make up for it afterwards. It’s no wonder snakes find the eggs so quickly. A freshly laid egg is cause for even more boisterous rejoicing by the hen than by the potential egg eater.

When I heard Lylie crowing to the world that she’d laid her egg, I headed immediately to the bush. And there it was.

John wondered aloud if Lylie might be rosemary-scented after the ordeal. I wouldn’t be surprised. This egg’s shell, however, being the miraculous thing it is, had already hardened and was no more filled with the essence of rosemary than the egg we’d gotten from the metal henhouse nest box a couple days earlier.

Too bad, really. Imagine the frittata you could make with an egg like that.

* * *

Here’s what we’ll have for you at the farm stand on Wednesday (and don’t forget – street parking is available on Bell Avenue, if we run out of spaces in the Asian Center’s parking lot!):

Tomatoes galore — Early Girls, big slicing Bella Rosa, heirloom Cherokee Purple (lots of them this week!), Italian Bolseno, French Tomande; two varieties of cherry tomatoes; loads of summer squash – yellow squash, Zephyr, zucchini and some pattypan; two varieties of Asian cucumbers; Red Lasoda potatoes; fresh elephant garlic; bunches of basil; bunches of purple beets, and a few bunches of golden beets; super sweet Yellow Granex onions, Red Burgundy onions; heirloom “Rattlesnake” green beans; white bell peppers; and some bunches of chard.

**There’s a decent chance of rain for Wednesday, but we’ll still be there, like always. Even if it rains in the morning, don’t let that prevent you from coming later – we have plenty of most things to last until 2:00!

Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm