Jenny Burman Jenny Burman
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from Echo Park

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Sparkle delivers



One of my chickens began laying eggs about 18 days ago. Sparkle is an Easter Egger bantam, and each of her eggs is about half the size of a regular store bought, or market-bought, jumbo egg. She lays one a day, and they are the most lovely shade of blue-green. A perfect color, even as each one is a tiny bit different than the one before. It pains me to throw away the shells. There are noticeable differences in texture, too. The shells are thicker than our market eggs, and there are striations of calcium. Or specks. One day I fed the hens extra grit, which includes oyster shells (also present in their "lay mash" feed); the next day the egg was embossed with specks of gray. On a day after they have received less attention the shell is smooth. The day after they've had cauliflower, strawberries, clover, and lettuce, the shell has little lines, like latitude markers on a globe.

Meanwhile, the little hen who is laying has changed her behavior. If you approach, she has a new stance: she hits the deck, with her wings half spread, ready to fly. She does not want to be picked up anymore. She is the girl who got her period before the others. While Rainbow and Cutie Patootie are dancing around the outer coop, still prepubescent, Sparkle excuses herself for a time and goes to sit quietly by herself. Usually it's late morning. Then, when she's done with her job, she leaves her egg and runs out to play with her buddies. She's not, as they say in chicken parlance, broody. She has no interest in sitting around waiting for that egg to hatch.

And, yes, to answer the question, we have been eating the eggs. They are good. Though in truth it's hard to know if they are "better" as so many chicken keepers attest. They have dark-bright-orange yolks. The aforementioned hard shells. We pretty much know what the birds have been eating: bugs and clover, green scraps from our kitchen, the occasional banana or plain yogurt. Cabbage is a big favorite. They love a tasty treat.

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