I trudged through the snow in the chicken pen, hoping to hear sounds of life from the beehive in the left hand corner despite the temperatures that were still coquettishly flirting with the freezing mark. No matter; the hive was nestled in its makeshift straw bale hut, complete with an old door for a roof, and it was as cozy as a beehive in winter possibly could be.
The bees were silent, but I was startled to notice an egg lolling beneath the hive. “Strange,” I thought—clearly the bees were not at fault here, but the chickens had been holed up in their coop and covered run. But often the eggs had frozen and split before I could collect them, and I’d tossed them into the pen. Maybe some large and athletic rats had dragged the eggs there to make the area beneath the hive their new center for fine dining.
It was a disconcerting thought, but I wasn’t too concerned; the hive’s one open entrance hole had a screen over it to prevent intrusion by inquisitive rodents. However, as the days went by and the pile of cracked and frozen egg grew to almost a dozen, I began to think it strange that rats would bring eggs there and then simply admire them.
Finally, one day when the weather had relented and the snow had melted, the mystery was solved. When I peered under the beehive, a beady little gaze met mine. It was my youngest chicken, Feisty. She was poofed up into a fluffy avian pile, her body covering the sad and broken egg pile. She blinked at me, apparently indignant about my intrusion and making it clear that this was HER territory now.
She was right. For the next week or two, she remained stubbornly ensconced on the broken eggs, resolved to make chicks of them from sheer force of will. As far as I could tell, she never moved, and I began to worry about her not getting enough food or water. Fortunately, my concern was slightly alleviated when I caught her snacking on one of the eggs. Clearly, the irony of her meal was lost on her.
One day, I went down to the pen and found Feisty picking and scratching with her fellow chickens. “You finally realized the sad truth,” I told her, “and you’ve accepted your chickless fate.”
She’d done more than that—she’d clearly made a fine meal out of her literally broken dreams. There was nary an egg to be seen under the hive, not even a bit of shell.
Since that day, Feisty’s been out and about with her peers, and she’s convinced them that the area under the hive is a prime laying area. Fortunately, my husband made a clever grabbing tool and my son has become adept at using it, so fishing for eggs has become part of the daily ritual. Although the bees are now flying, they seem unconcerned by either chicken or child and calmly go about their business as Sage reaches down and plucks up eggs one by one.
Thus it has come to pass that my chicken has taught me a valuable lesson: If you can’t hatch your eggs, eat them.