In a time of renewal, I always feel renewed.
Spring is my favorite season, full of promise, shrugging off winter like a parka. Mulched flower beds, liberated from icy blankets of dead leaves and waiting to dazzle, look as neat and clean as Japanese rock gardens. Baseball begins, a fresh chapter in my lifelong roller-coaster romance with the Red Sox.
Crocuses, daffodils, forsythia, Easter eggs: I love all the traditional signs of early spring. Now, I have another indication of returning life that makes me smile.
Chickens roam my backyard.
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For the past three springs, my family’s hens have emerged from their coop daily, eager to leave their prison of the past months. They’re not shy about expressing themselves. If the sun’s up and they’re still in, they loudly inform us of their displeasure like avian alarm clocks.
Once free, Georgette, Paulette and Ringa spend their days happily scratching among the leaves and wooded areas, pecking at bugs and other tasty tidbits. They could escape over our low fence if they ever remembered their wings, but apparently, there’s more incentive to stay. We have not had a problem with ticks in recent memory.
This year, though, they’ve added a new element to their routine — random laying. At our house, egg hunts aren’t just for Easter anymore.
Sometimes, we find the brown, green or pale, pink eggs where they’re supposed to be, in the coop. When my wife finally acted upon a longtime wish to own chickens and bought five chicks, they naturally needed a place to live. While they were small, an aquarium with a heat lamp did the trick, but as they seemingly grew before our eyes, the pressure mounted to build a better option.
So I did, in spite of my limited carpentry skills. Our research turned up several examples of people converting swing sets to chicken coops. Who knew? Given my abilities with a hammer and a saw, that seemed to be a more feasible do-it-yourself project and a cheaper alternative to buying a ready-made structure.
We had the set, a sturdy, cedar model our boys had outgrown. Borrowing from different designs, I managed to construct a serviceable coop with an enclosed area under the play tower and a chicken wire-covered yard where the swings had been. The whole thing had a jury-rigged, “Swiss Robinson Family” feel to it, and I wasn’t going to win any style points, but our chickens had a home.
Take that, Bob Vila.
Since then, the coop has held up well, better than our original quintet. We lost Edna to a prowling hawk and Jeanette to mysterious natural causes. But the remaining trio continue to be champion, if erratic, egg-layers.
When they feel like it, they leave their presents in the nest boxes to great fanfare, crowing and squawking so that everyone knows. Other times, they make it a game: Where will the eggs be next?
Maybe they’re nestled in hay stored in the play tower. They could be buried in the leaves next to the compost pile. No, they’re beneath the azalea bush, or under the grill, or in basement window wells, or tucked away beside the greenhouse.
We probably would discover eggs in the coat closet if we let the chickens come into the house, as they try to do, ever-curious, when the back door has been left open.
Those crazy birds, I swear the Easter Bunny has been giving them lessons. Now we can have Easter in August.
Wherever the eggs turn up, they’re worth the search — rich, golden yolks that put their supermarket counterparts to shame. They’re one more thing in spring’s favor. After the winter hiatus, we again have a steady supply of fresh eggs, often still warm when collected if the chickens cooperate.
But even when they don’t and the hunt is on, we can’t complain. They’re giving us a wonderful gift, especially with the rising price of eggs.
I’m just praying the Red Sox aren’t as consistent with goose eggs, but hope springs eternal.
Chris Rosenblum writes about local people, places and events. Send column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.