Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chicken-Sitting (yes, that's a thing)

These are my friend Robin's chickens. She went on vacation, and I chicken-sat for a few days. I was excited to care for them because I really like the idea of keeping chickens, but I hesitate to volunteer to take responsibility for another living thing. Between my kids and my dog, I brush a lot of teeth that are not my own (yes, I know chickens don't have teeth - I'm just making a point).

Anyway, these chickens are wonderful. They are really fat and fluffy and soft and clean. Every day they each lay a perfect light brown egg. Which I experimented with happily. I fried, I soft-boiled, I poached, and I scrambled. The yolks are bright orange, and bigger than the yolks in my supermarket eggs; they also have much more flavor. I didn't even put salt on the soft-boiled egg, and it was delicious. One day I fried an egg that was minutes old, and one that was a day old, and now I can tell you to let an egg cool before you cook it. The ridiculously fresh egg was much thinner in consistency, and made a very flat and thin fried egg. The cold one was amazing - the yolk sat so proud, and the white held together so beautifully, there was no frilly edge at all. The biggest cooking difference I found was with poaching. I cracked the eggs one by one into a small measuring cup, and poured them into the water, and they didn't spread AT ALL. They were the most perfect poached eggs I've ever made (or eaten, for that matter) - I didn't even make a little whirlpool to drop them into like I usually do. 

I really only had one problem while Robin was gone. On the evening of the day she left town I checked on the chickens. They have two nests which they share for laying. As you can see in the photo, there is a light brown chicken, a speckled chicken, and two black chickens. When I first checked on them, there was a black chicken laying, so I left her alone and collected two eggs from the other nest. The next morning when I checked, there was a black chicken in the same spot. I went back later that day to check for eggs, and, yet again, there was a black chicken in the same spot. It was at this point that I wondered if perhaps the same chicken had been sitting there since Robin left. She looked at me when I lifted her roof, so I knew she wasn't dead, but other than that, I had no idea if she was sick or sad, or if my timing was such that there was always a black chicken laying whenever I went over there. 

The next day when I went to check I wasn't even surprised to see a black chicken in the nest. I texted Robin (don't you love when your chicken-sitter texts you with a chicken emergency when you are on vacation?) and she suggested that the black chicken was "broody." Since there's no rooster, she said that all I could do was get the black chicken off the nest, but to be careful, because she would peck me. So I put on two thick sweatshirts and headed back to the coop, a little terrified. Then I remembered that when my father was a child he had kept chickens, so I called him. He lives 3000 miles away, so I had to settle for a phone consultation. He suggested I just lift the chicken up from under her wings, take the eggs, and put her down in the coop. He made it sound so easy. So I did it. I lifted her up and saw three eggs underneath her. I took them away and balanced them on Robin's picnic table along with the egg I took from the other nest (I think you know where I'm going with this). Then I put a cup of seeds in front of her, let her take a few, and then I threw the seeds into the coop. She flew down and started eating. Just then I heard a loud squawk, and by the time I looked over at the picnic table, a crow had pecked a huge hole in one of the eggs and it was almost empty. I was furious! I hadn't done much for the other eggs I'd collected, but I'd worked for these. I didn't have an egg crate with me, so I carefully nestled the three remaining my purse. When I was ready to go, I very carefully carried my purse to the car, wondering if this was the last time I would get to use it. But they arrived home safe and sound. 

Robin's back, and although I enjoyed chicken-sitting, I'm glad to hand the reigns back to her. But just look at my perfect poached eggs:


  1. The girls asked about you this morning.
    Thanks for loving them while we were away.

    1. Tell them I miss them. My kids are FURIOUS that I made them go to camp and "miss" the chickens. I think they need a chicken play-date.