Yes, I was a little nervous about it. I guess you could call me chicken.
One of the best things about having friends is the opportunity to do favors for them. I would rather do something nice for someone else than to have someone else do something nice for me. In this case, it turned out both ways.
So in this particular case, a young couple I know was going out of town for the weekend. There were already accommodations made for the child and the dog and the cat, but that left one little demographic that needed looking after:
Honored to be entrusted with such a responsibility, I met their tentative request with a wholehearted YES! Of course I would chicken sit.
Even though I realized pretty quick that you need to speak slowly and carefully when you say that particular phrase.
Anyway, it was easy, they promised, and it really looked like it was.
All I had to do was open the coop in the morning, scatter some mealworms and oats and some other kind of chicken chow around, and then go back that night and herd the chicks back into the coop and lock it up again.
“You can have the eggs,” they offered, and this seemed like a more than generous compensation for what little time and trouble this job would cost me.
I like eggs, but never buy them. When you live alone, there are a lot of things you don’t buy. Bread, for one. Pizza, for another. And eggs.
But on that very first morning, I collected four pretty little eggs, each a different shade of brown: beige and taupe and tan and fawn.
They were lovely. And warm, as if right from the oven.
I hard-boiled the eggs, and ate two for my breakfast and the other two at lunch, sprinkled lightly with salt. I had never had wild eggs before. Yum.
A few weeks later, my friends were on their way out of town again. Would I mind …? Not at all, I assured them. In fact, by now, the chicks seemed to really like me. Maybe because I am, perhaps, overly generous with the mealworms.
This time, however, one of the hens refused to leave the coop in the morning. She was settled deep into the nesting box and glared at me when I tried gently to shoo her out. Well, maybe she was in the middle of laying an egg, I thought. I propped the coop door open and went back home.
When I returned at sunset, however, she was still on the nest. I worried a little, but not much.
But the next morning, when she refused again to leave the nest, I worried a lot. Maybe an egg had gotten stuck while she was trying to lay it, like some kind of chicken constipation. Maybe she had broken a leg. Maybe … well, I don’t know what else could be wrong with a hen, but I agonized over the prospect of my friends returning home to find one of their hens sick or injured … or worse.
Finally — desperate — I texted my friends. Their return message fairly chuckled at my anxiety. “She’s just brooding,” they said. “She’s fine, don’t worry.”
Whew. What a relief.
The hen was on the nest every morning and every night the entire time they were in my care, but my friends assured me she was leaving at various points during the day to eat and drink.
Of course, in the meantime, I was able to harvest no eggs, which was a bit of a bummer. I could see eggs under this hen … who knew how many, dozens, maybe … but when I reached in to try to pick one up, she pecked at me in a most alarming manner. Well, alarming for me, anyway; she didn’t seem to mind.
My friends returned, and a few days later came by my house with an unexpected and unnecessary — but most appreciated — “thank you” present.
It was a gift card to Chic-fil-A.
Gotta admit, I felt a little guilty eating cousins of the chicks I had grown to love and care for, but oh well, that’s the circle of life, I suppose.
So if anyone ever asks me which came first, the chicken or the egg, now I know the answer:
Who cares. Friendships are hatched out of favors, and that’s all that matters.