After several teasers of springtime, the scent of sparkling dew on grass greets me. Peepers sing in the marsh down the road.
The womb of morning blooms daffodils before my little camper named Happy. And why wouldn’t she be, surrounded by all this beauty?
Yes, this glory is well worth the wait – five months plodding downhill in snow and uphill again with six warm eggs in my pocket. Sometimes five. This happens when hens age.
These days with sky-high food prices, the recipients of my egg surplus are doubly grateful for their brown-shelled gifts. I wonder why more homeowners don’t keep layers. I’ve found the intangible benefits plentiful.
I kick open the henhouse door (it sticks at the bottom). “Good morning, girls!” I say.
The Isa Browns gather on the other side of the interior screened door, squawk until I unlock and swing the door open and lift their chute. They jump down into their pen, stretch their legs and peck.
I gather eggs, scrape their droppings off roost poles, and refresh their straw, feed and water.
As diatomaceous earth deters creeping insects, I spread the white powder on the straw of the roosting and laying side of the house. Also, a sprinkle of powder on the pen’s ground offers a mite treatment when the girls dust bathe.
I close the henhouse door. “Thanks for the eggs! See you at sundown!”
The flock clusters by the pen door, plead for me to let them out to graze on grass as green as Ireland. If hens could drool, they’d be drooling.
I climb the hill and determine to repair their tractor pen posthaste for safe grazing while I’m occupied outside or inside.
Sure, there are start-up and repair costs with hen husbandry. But once a sound, small structure is complete, there’s basically the feed and diatomaceous earth expense. Oh, and grain and water feeders. Hens must have access to a fresh supply of both.
A luscious pink color catches my eye in the awakening landscape by the pergola. The magnolia! Of course. And the forsythia, in perfect yellow, springtime succession.
This moment quickens the intangible benefits my wise friend Andy spoke of when he suggested I add hens to my little lavender farm. An avid deer hunter who kept dogs, horses, and hens, Andy once said, “I witness the seasons change when I walk to the barn in the morning and evening. I see things I’ve overlooked before.”
Such as the moon and constellations rotating around Earth when I sit in the swing atop the hill after sundown.
In this season of my life where it is my privilege to behold the first fruits of spring, I recall my teenage years with four sisters and parents in a small house.
Dear Reader, come the first warm evening, I’d lay on the lawn in the backyard, my cocker spaniel Sweetie as my pillow, and stargaze.
Oh, blessed silence and breath. There’s no price tag for the many benefits of caring for a flock of hens.
Contact Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.