There’s something peaceful about chickens. Joe’s out of town for a couple of days so I have inherited egg duty. After slipping on some old clothes, I grab the battered pail that serves as our egg bucket and walk across the back forty to the hen high rise. The end of daylight savings time means that the sky is silver and pink by the time I get around to this chore. Most of the hens are inside on the roost because they are smarter than humans. They don’t stay up past their bedtimes watching TV.
The door to our chicken coop has an old fashioned peg latch on it. I slide the latch to the left with a soft snick and push the wooden door open. The hens chuckle and snuggle against each other, huddling against the intruder (me). A stray feather drifts to the floor. In the subdued light, the hens look like fluffy brown pillows tossed onto the thin sticks that make up the two corner roosts.
I turn to the nesting boxes and feel around in each one for the five or six eggs the hens have taken turns depositing there. The eggs are smooth like river rocks and the last few to be laid are still warm to the touch. I check to be sure the chickens have some food and water and then walk over to rub my hands through the feathers of the closest hen. She squeaks a little, but lets me ruffle her head. Chicken feathers are silky, and the hen and I mesmerize each other as I run my fingers down her back. Her bottom eyelids rise up to meet her top ones and she relaxes.
I thank the hens for all their hard work, and admonish the rooster to take care of his girls. On my way back to the house I say a little prayer of thanksgiving for the simple places and rituals on a farm that provide sanctuary from busy days.