First Egg: Light, Life, and the Wild Spiral


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…


  1. Lovely post. I’m with you on April being a doddle, cruelty-wise. I always hear Van Morrison’s lyrics in my mind at this time of year. “Gotta get through January, gotta get through February.” Like a mantra. Although really, it’s hard to complain here in Vancouver with the snowdrops and hellebores out and even the first of the neighbour’s japonica blooming.

  2. Not having my own chickens, I think the return of eggs the West Seattle Farmers Market might be my version of the “first egg”! But better still is seeing my cat Gradka sit among the raspberry canes tilting her face up to bask in the rare sunshine; that’s my favorite and finest harbinger of Spring.

  3. Irene A.

    While walking through our neighborhood on these semi-dark February days, I see pots of beautiful, bright colored primroses popping up on front porches everywhere. Puts an extra “spring” in my step!

  4. Clay Smitson

    Great blog, love Spring and the warbler migration through KY. Off the subject I heard your interview with John Bachelor on “Crow Planet” and plan to buy the book. I’m a wildlife biologist and avid crow fan. I’ve never heard much about folk’s limited interpretation of their many calls but always wondered about the low chattering “clacking” call, hard to describe verbally! Do you have any thoughts? Thanks so much!

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