At this time of year, eggs become something of a staple in our diet. My hens were all OAPs when I got them several years ago and, as a result, their laying season is fairly short. Each year I tell myself that “this year we will get rid of them and get some new, young, birds” but somehow each year it ends up at the bottom of the “to-do” list. So when our hens start laying we feast on our own fresh free range eggs.

We have all become accustomed to thinking of free range eggs as something of a luxury. We pay more for them in the shops and convince ourselves we are very virtuous for paying the extra. But why?

The benefits of free range eggs are obvious, they feel “real” when you hold them – there is something more solid about a free range egg somehow. They are that lovely deep orange colour when you break them – we had eggs for dinner tonight, and they were the colour of deep orange marigolds. They certainly taste as though they should be healthier for us. And we can happily think about Henrietta the hen clucking around the barnyard scratching away, and digging for worms in the muck heap.

The disadvantage of them is that our miserly feathered friends hide them all the time.

And there, I believe, is the answer. The hens that lay those lovely marigold-yoked eggs KNOW that they are laying a superior product. Whilst their caged cousins unthinkingly just drop their eggs willy-nilly in a nest box, the free range hen hoards hers like a pirate and his gold. She knows that hers is the egg that everyone wants, so she is going to make us work for it.

So we appreciate them all the more. We watch our hens like amateur sleuths, to try to figure out where the latest hiding place is. And, when we discover a nest, we carefully raid it as early as possible each day in order to have a share of the treasure trove.

Eventually the hens will outwit us. I am convinced that they too are hiding in the shrubbery, to figure out who it is that is stealing their hoard. Then they will find a new hiding place, but that is OK too. Either we will track them down or, if we don’t, Henrietta will suddenly appear one day with a clutch of little hatchlings.

Who can be unhappy about that 🙂

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