Which came first, the egg or the hemorrhoid?
I pride myself on being a farmer with a conscience, but sometimes making extra cash as a chicken/egg farmer feels a lot like being a pimp: the women do all the dirty work, and some man rakes in all the profits.
You didn’t hear it from me, and if it comes up in court I’ll lawyer up and plead the Fifth, but at the present moment I have about a dozen working girls out there on the strip right now, laying eggs and making money for Big Daddy down at DeWitt Family Farms. But I can’t help but feel a little sorry for my ladies. It can’t be easy being an egg-laying, working girl.
The life of a working girl
For starters, a laying hen’s love life is no picnic. If you’ve never witnessed a rooster “courting” a hen, well, all you deprived city boys and girls who were raised on concrete; it’s not exactly a gentle, romantic affair. The poor girl basically gets assaulted by the rooster, who then wanders off to find his next victim with not so much as a rose bouquet or even a text saying “Thanks for the good time.” It’s a lot like a Charlie Sheen marriage: it’s violent, someone is going to get their feathers ruffled, but luckily it’s over quickly.
Then there is the egg laying ordeal itself. Gentlemen, can you imagine passing a golf-ball-sized kidney stone before you get out of bed every morning? Ladies, can you imagine giving birth once, maybe twice a day, with no painkillers and no husband to hold your hand or rub your swollen feet? Every now and then, the farmer will discover that one of his hens has laid an enormous egg, twice the size of all the other eggs in the yard, and you wince and wonder how in the world something so large could come from such a small chicken. You wonder which poor girl laid that Guinness World Record egg. Then you spot the old gal walking by in the chicken yard, all bow-legged, maybe dragging a leg or limping, and squawking in pain every time she sits down, and you think “bless her poor heart” and “I hope she lays another big one tomorrow, I’m making an omelet!” But at least now you finally know where the expression “Mad as a setting hen!” comes from.
But some chickens lay eggs that are too small to suit Big Daddy’s customers. Perhaps I spend too much time with my feathered ladies—at least that’s what the wife fusses about in couple’s counseling—but I can always spot the “newbies,” the first-time layers, just by looking at the eggs. When a young, inexperienced hen starts laying, the eggs come out all misshapen, sometimes short and round-shaped, sometimes long and odd-shaped, sometimes with blotchy spots or very brittle shells. When a newbie starts laying eggs, it’s always a messy business. If you ever find an egg that is covered with feathers and all sorts of icky chicken fertilizer—yes, we will be polite and call it fertilizer—then you know it dropped out of a newbie. And you know it’s going to take you ten minutes to wash that one egg before you would even consider putting it anywhere near a frying pan.
I try not to be too hard on the new girls, however. Sometimes they catch a lot of heat from the older hens on the yard, who love to sit around and gossip: “Look at that trashy heifer,” an older hen may say. “She sure lays a nasty egg. I don’t know about you girls, but my eggs are spotless! And just look at that skanky heifer walk away from that mess with her nose all up in the air like it’s nothing. That’s just trashy, if you ask me.”
I don’t know about your farm operation, but gossip is rampant on my chicken yard, especially after I introduced a new, high-production, egg-laying breed into the population. “Look at that tramp,” my lazy old hens would cackle amongst themselves. “Look at her showing off and laying three eggs a day! I’ll bet every one of those eggs has a different daddy!”
But I know how to deal with those mean, bullying old hens. I won’t talk about killing and eating chickens in this family-friendly newspaper column, but let’s just say that hanging a hatchet and a large pot over the hen house door tends to shut their mouths and get them back to work.
Better than store bought
All the pain and suffering these working girls endure is all worth it in the end, though. There is a vast difference between “store-bought” eggs and fresh farm eggs. Eating a store-bought egg is a lot like kissing your cousin: it’s still a kiss, but it doesn’t really count. It doesn’t really have much flavor. When you see that Grade A Large egg in the grocery store, and it’s all white and shiny and sterile and perfectly uniform in shape and size, don’t let the bar code fool you. That’s because those eggs have had all of the pain and shame and feathers and chicken fertilizer hosed off of them, along with the taste. On the contrary, DeWitt Farms chickens and eggs wear their pain and shame proudly!
All jokes aside, there is nothing more farm-to-table than stepping into the chicken yard in the morning, maybe getting a little something on your shoes in the process, risking an unwanted advance from a randy rooster and fighting off that mad old hen—just to get a fresh brown egg or two to go with your grits and home-smoked bacon. Now that’s a country breakfast! As I tell my wife and preach to my children, there is nothing finer and more nobly satisfying than raising your own animals and eating your own fresh meats, fruits and vegetables. That is the only way to truly know that you are providing high-quality food for your family. Our ancestors did it. And, as I remind my sons, you never know when hard times will roll around again and you may have to raise your own food just to survive.
At the risk of sounding like a cheap advertisement for DeWitt Family Farm eggs (only $2 a dozen, no hormones or antibiotics added, call 843-898-4017 today!), and aside from a little hen pimping and chicken limping, here at DeWitt Family Farms we pride ourselves on raising our chickens and our children with love.
But if you call to order eggs and don’t get an answer, I’m probably busy so just leave a message and tell me how many dozen you want. Big Daddy is probably back at the ranch checking on my working girls. And they better have my eggs and my money.