Some people find it hard to relate to my affection for my hens. And truth be told, until I became a chicken owner, I didn't really get it either. I thought it would be nice to have fresh eggs just steps from the back door. There was something bucolic... simple and homespun... about having chickens. But I wasn't prepared to take such pleasure in them.
Take Gertie for example. She's the biggest of the seven. A lovely golden Buff Orpington. Everytime I walk out the back door, she runs to greet me. She knows I often bring along a treat, but I like to think she has some affection for me. She hurries along, fluffy petticoats ruffling along in a froth behind her, intent on reaching me first. She stops, then eyes me, inquiring with that sideways speculation chickens so perfect. She is a prime example of the early bird getting the worm. The other day, I found a hugenormous green tomato cut worm feasting on my lovely Tappy's Heritage Heirloom tomato.
I hurried back into the house, uttering a phrase of apology to the universe and karma, because I surely meant that creature no ill will except I will not tolerate his presence in my garden. I will not have it. He was at least 5 inches long, fat with tomato leaves and a garden glutton if ever I saw one.
I grabbed my canning tongs, hurried back past the hens, into the garden, and up to that tomato plant. I plucked that juicy nasty morsel off my tomato plant and walked back through the gate where the hens were busily scratching and searching, and Gertie greeted me first, head cocked, rewarded when I presented her with the biggest green worm she'd ever seen. Steak, baby. She grabbed it and ran, the worm waving along like a flag to the other hens, and the race was on.
I didn't stay to watch them pick and peck the poor thing to pieces. I did feel a little guilty about that, but that's the risk you take when you eat my tomato plants. And so the plant I raised fed a green worm, who fed my hens, who will return the favor with nice, fresh eggs that will feed my family.
There is probably a reason Gertie is bigger than the others. As my husband says, Gertie is a sturdy girl.