Small Scale Farming/The Path to Pinterest
The path to achieving your Pinterest dreams is not what you would expect. It’s muddy, bloody, feathery, messy, and at times, smelly. But I reached an amazing milestone today: my first egg. My first blue egg.
When I was a baby, I had a hip surgery and emerged from the hospital in a partial body cast, lying in a red wagon with balloons and a stuffed Tweety bird. I still have Tweety today, and when I hold him I am reminded of the golden hours my siblings and I spent in childhood removing his stuffing through his beak and “feeding” it back to him, and cutting off his three hairs with safety scissors, among other happy memories.
Tweety became the namesake for a poofy cheeked chick that I bought several months ago. It was a Whiting True Blue, a rare breed purported to lay sky blue eggs.
Tweety was half the size of the others, and very aloof towards people, but her transparent sense of entitlement was a constant source of amusement, as if she knew she was the most expensive chicken in the yard. If the other chicks were lying down cuddled together, she had no qualms about walking over the heap, and when roosting, would relieve herself unconcernedly on whoever happened to be below. Someone begged me to sell her when she was three months old, and I thought, “well, she’s not my friendliest lady and I can always replace her.”
I sold her for the most I’ve ever gotten for a chicken. And, immediately, I regretted it.
“I sold out!” I told Emika forlornly, but with new resolve. “I crossed a line today and I’m not going to do it again.”
Replacing her was a harder task than I imagined; her breed is scarce normally, but more so during the pandemic, and although there were green eggers to be had, my egg goals were sky blue eggs. I paid double for a replacement chick… who promptly fell prey to a marauder with expensive taste. But in my regret-fueled Internet browses, I hit upon another road to blue eggs: celadon blue quail. A seductive blog post on “why you need quail” beguiled me with the Pinterest-y promise of a bowl of tiny blue eggs on my kitchen counter, and I found a local breeder to get my celadon blue eggs from. The real clincher is that you go from hatching to laying eggs in 6 weeks, which compared to the interminable 6-month wait for chicken eggs, seemed refreshingly short.
The quail hatched on my 5th anniversary, as tiny as junebugs and ridiculously adorable. But as cute as they were, they were obviously not endowed with the brains of chickens; one promptly drowned in ⅛ inch of water. And they smelled. I would learn too late that they have scent glands which contribute to their ripe odor. They grew at an astounding rate, developing in a week what would take a month in a chicken. And before long, it was apparent that the majority of my hatchlings were males. The quail pen was not a peaceful place, to say the least. The males stand up tall on their little legs and yell out crows that sound like a wild bird and run around trying to pull each other’s head feathers out and attempting to mate with whoever is closest. I had already sold whatever females and breeding trios I could, and appeared to have a dozen males and 5 females left - an insupportable ratio. Something had to be done - and I was the one who had to do it. After a grim afternoon, several of these guys are now resting peacefully in our refrigerator and the ladies are lounging in their enclosure, luxuriously unharassed.
Six weeks, they promised. That’s when they start laying. An egg a day. Bowls full of tiny blue eggs.
Six weeks was yesterday.
And today, like clockwork, I found my first little speckled blue egg in a corner of the pen.
And then later this afternoon, two more.
As promised, I have an adorable clutch of eggs sitting on my kitchen counter in a gold rimmed teacup.
Finally, my blue eggs are here, an adorable reminder that the path to Pinterest dreams is not always, in itself, Pinterest-y.