Another Day in the Country
Running through the pasture
© Another Day in the Country
My grandson’s chickens must lay the healthiest eggs in California because they get so many good greens in their diet — most of them legal.
The illegal greens include our honeysuckle plant, which grows in a pot by our front door.
For some reason, the hens decided to make it a nesting site. They neatly nibbled all the long vines into stubble and made their nest in the middle, depositing a brown egg and a blue egg inside before my daughter got home from work and noticed the carnage.
It seemed to me, when I heard the story, that the hens must have been free for longer than just a few hours — which is their normal release period. They did quite a lot of damage in a short time. Evidently they were motivated!
With or without wild greens, my son-in-law, Richard, brings home discarded California-style greens — lots of kale — from the upscale food store where he works.
The produce section of this trendy market is like a piece of art work — each section of vegetables stacked in color-cued beauty like sculptures.
Woe be to the leaf that wilts or gets even slightly discouraged with its future.
Sometimes, when Richard brings home these bags and bags of throw-away food, I say, “That still looks good. I could eat that!”
He just shakes his head in dismay.
“It’s for the chickens,” he says, but I harbor a desire to one day have a spinach omelet with part of the free loot.
Because the hens have so many greens, their egg yolks are orange! And they are so full of vitamins they probably can cure illness.
When I first got these chicks for my grandson, I also bought an expensive bale of “orchard grass” for the chicklets.
Although dry, the grass was still green and filled with oodles of grass seed. The chicks loved it, and Peckerface, the only original chick left in Dagfinnr’s flock of two hens, still loves that meadow grass.
Unfortunately the meadow grass got stored for the winter down in what we call the horse shed, which used to house the horses’ hay and was never big enough for the horses.
Because it is a ways from the house, it gets forgotten. Furthermore, Dagfinnr informs me, there are spiders in the shed and rattlesnakes lying in wait (he’s sure) on the way down to the shed so why would a loving grandmother send her grandson down there to get orchard grass when there is perfectly good straw left over from a fall decorating project in the garage?
“Chickens love that orchard grass because of all the seeds, and furthermore they don’t eat straw unless they are desperate,” I replied.
He made the journey with trepidation. He was in and out and up from the shed so fast that he had to make two trips.
“Bring more,” I kept telling him.
Peckerface was ecstatic. She remembered the hay from her childhood, sort of like I remember haylofts and all the fun we used to have playing up there.
Even though we’d let the hens out for the afternoon while we cleaned their pen, Peckerface kept coming back in and calling to Helga, “There’s orchard grass in the coop, come check this out.”
But Helga had migrated across the sidewalk to a patch of dirt that used to be part of a flower bed but is now a dedicated dusting bowl.
Helga was spreading her wings, kicking up dust, stretching out in the sunshine. I’m sure, for her, it must have felt like a luxurious massage.
Meanwhile, Peckerface was torn between her desire to have a dust bath and scratch in the lovely orchard hay for seeds.
Hay? Dirt? Which will it be?
She ran first to find Helga and then back into the coop to the hay. The hay won out!
I don’t know what visions of grandeur go through a hen’s head when she is knee deep in orchard grass, but I can imagine, remembering my younger days, running through the pasture at Grandpa’s house on another day in the country. And I agree with her choice!