Excuse the blur that is this moving target: I accept her wild-eyed, floppy-combed self, bad habits and all, and she mostly accepts mine.
Farm animals keep you honest. Really, they do. They have schedules, they have needs, they don’t accept much slacking on the parts of their owners. It’s actually a good and deep relationship that can develop, even if it’s between you and a simple chicken.
When we got our most recent batch of laying hens two springs ago, I almost drew the line on Pauline, the white Leghorn. Leghorns (excepting Foghorn) are egg-laying machines (indeed: many white industrial eggs come from Leghorns) and they’re skittish: I like a more calm bird. But my daughter really wanted that little yellow chick, and I conceded, with reservations. Sure enough, she’s an egg-laying machine. And she’s easily spooked! Such is the monkey-see of chick-raising, her habit was picked up by all four other chicks, so much so that only in puberty did they come back to their true, calm natures…while Pauline remains a squawking idiot.
But hey, a flighty, squawking egg machine can be a lot of fun! I think often about all her sisters and cousins who’re spending their short lives, 5 to a cage the size of a cat carrier, laying endlessly until they become soup or–horrors–nuggets. Pauline lives her life as she pleases, flying out of the coop and henyard, determined as ever to satisfy her desires. It only took me about a week to realize I wasn’t getting a daily egg from her, only one every other day: as the only white egg of the bunch, hers are distinctive. A bit of bushwacking and building-searching led me to find her cache hidden behind a hay bale and atop barncat Edie’s straw-bale bed.