Like all of us, chickens are creatures that respond to the seasons, to cycles of light and dark. Many breeds of chickens will lay eggs throughout their first winter, but once they get a little older, their egg-laying will usually dwindle and then stop completely as the winter darkness falls. Some people install lights into their coops to keep their chickens laying all year, inspired by the artificial brightness. But I like to give my girls the rest their bodies naturally seek.
So every year, in this gorgeous, liminal season of Winter-into-Spring, I delight in finding the first egg in the coop, a true sign that the bodies of all organisms are coming to life. This year, though, I was uncertain. After losing our beloved Marigold, we were left with two chickens, Ethel the Barred Rock, and Ophelia the Buff Orpington. They are lovely, but they are also old. Six years old? I think so. I wasn’t sure there would be any eggs at all this year. But this morning, there it was: Ethel’s first small, pink egg. Spring really is coming.
T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but honestly? I think it’s February. We all make sparkly intentions for the new year, set goals, and turn the calendar in January with an almost magical sense of the new life that is about to manifest. But then in a couple of weeks, and certainly by February, everyone seems dazed. It’s still dang dark (at least in Seattle), and our lives? Well, they seem just the same as ever.
But they’re not. We spiral through the seasons, yes, but our perspective rises year by year, higher and brighter, like a spiral staircase rooted in the earth.
Today, this beautiful little egg is my reminder. Thank you, Ethel. What is your version of “the first egg?”
p.s. No, Ethel did not lay her egg in that tiny nest. That is a Bewicks wren nest from last year. I love it because it is made of everything from the world close by my house–spider webs, rabbit fur, mosses and lickens, some garbage, and feathers from my chickens…