You know the days are getting longer when you come back from the coop with a basketful of eggs. The excitement I feel when I open up the lid of the nesting box and look inside never fades, though this must be the fifth year we’ve kept hens. And frankly, with the orders coming in thick and fast, the fact that there have this week been as many as eight offerings each day – rather than the dreaded two or three that occur during the bleakest, shortest winter days – is a blessed relief.
All different colours, ranging from deep speckled mahogany to the purest white, always seem like little miracles nestling in the straw, the loveliest shapes laid out in a pleasing, natural arrangement. Picking them up and putting them in the dedicated egg basket is an equally satisfying part of the ritual. They always need a bit of cleaning in the kitchen – a lightly damp piece of kitchen roll usually does the trick, though the occasional ones come so filthy I fear a chisel might be more effective (these often end up as an added bonus on a bowlful of dog food). The finishing touch before we pop them in the boxes is the pencilled-on date, written carefully on the pointed end so our customers know when their eggs have been laid. I’ve heard of henkeepers also writing on the name of the bird that produced it, but we’re not that great at knowing who’s rustled up what. Perhaps one day.
Of course, there are two birds whose eggs you are in no doubt about: Audrey (pastel blue) and Mabel (the palest green), the Araucanas. They won’t begin laying for another three weeks or so, when the days are longer – they shut up shop back in September – so their produce is eagerly anticipated. Last year, it was almost as if they’d read a text book on the subject and knew that pure breeds such as themselves come back into lay around Valentine’s Day, because just a couple of days later there were two perfect little pretty eggs waiting for us, just in time for a cooked breakfast. Bring on February 14th!