"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bye Bye Birdies

                                                                  King of the Coop

We discovered, at last, what is happening to all the eggs. Muriel, one of the old hens we got for free way back when we were first acquiring animals, has been eating them. I occasionally found an egg with yolk all over it, clearly indicating that another egg had been next to it and no longer was, but I assumed that my hens were laying thin shelled eggs and some of them were breaking.I added oyster shell to their diet.  After several weeks of gathering only a few, sticky eggs a day, I cam to the conclusion that somebody was deliberately breaking and eating eggs, but I didn't know who. 

It may seem like a simple puzzle, but when you have thirty chickens and no way to separate them, it is pretty much impossible to find out who is eating eggs unless you catch them in the act. Yesterday, that's what happened. We were all outside and I collected two eggs and gave them to Homero to hold, since I didn't have any pockets. Busy with something else, he laid them on the ground. Quick as only an egg-stealing chicken can be, Muriel came running over and before Homero could even stoop to retrieve the eggs, pock, pock! She had broken them both open. 

Previously, I had told Homero that if he ever saw who was breaking eggs, he should just pick that chicken up and wring it's neck then and there. There's no cure for egg-thievery. But the fact that it was Muriel presented a problem. We had originally taken in Agnes and Muriel with the promise that we were providing them a home for their old age, and that we wouldn't kill them. While I never heard from the previous owners again, and I'm pretty sure they'd never know, still, a promise is a promise. Moreover, Agnes and Muriel are the only chickens with names. We've been explaining to the children that some animals have names and we don't kill them, and other animals do not have names, and that means they are food and we will kill them and eat them. I didn't want to violate the name-rule and confuse the kids. What to do?

Rowan told me to put her on Craig's List. Ridiculous. Who wants and old hen that breaks eggs? Well, couldn't hurt to try. I penned an ad that had the headline "Save a Chicken's life!" and went on to read: "We have an elderly hen who not only has stopped laying eggs, but who also breaks and eats other hen's eggs. I was about to kill her when my kids convinced me that some generous soul out there wants to provide her with a home. Her name is Muriel. She's smart and friendly, so she might make a good pet. Good deed anyone?"

Well, I'd never have believed it but Rowan was right. Three different people called and I gave her - and her longtime companion Agnes, who hasn't broken any eggs, but who would be lonely without Muriel - away to the first person who showed up with a cat carrier.

Now we'll see how many eggs I get today.