December 12, 2018
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Fighting winter boredom and teaching my chickens to lay rare round eggs

Julia Bayly | BDN
Julia Bayly | BDN
School is in session for the Rusty Metal Farm chickens. Only time will tell if the lessons compute to valuable, statistically rare round eggs.

FORT KENT, Maine — It wasn’t the goose that laid the golden egg, but a buff orpington hen in England recently laid a perfectly round egg that sold on eBay for $741.

I find this disturbing on two levels.

One, that anyone would actually shell out $741 for, well, a shell; and two, I know for a fact there have been at least one, maybe two perfectly spherical eggs produced by the chickens at Rusty Metal Farm over the years.

At $741 a pop, that’s not chicken feed. Check that. It’s actually a lot of chicken feed.

Not to mention one expensive omelette, something my friend Kim Paradis reminded me when she told me about the high priced egg and pointed out I had likely literary eaten my poultry profits.

According to an online article in the New York Daily News, the chances of a chicken laying a perfectly round egg is near one-in-a-billion.

It also stated that 60 people entered the online bidding war for the egg, though there is really no reason given for why such spherical eggs are so highly prized.

It’s seems a perfect poultry testament to P.T. Barnum’s assertion, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Actually, this whole $741 egg thing could not have come at a better time.

Recently, thanks to my favorite all-things-chicken website, “The Chicken Chick,” aka Kathy Shea Mormino, I learned the long, dark days of winter can result in cabin fever for cooped up hens.

According to Mormino, “Whenever chickens are suddenly confined to spaces smaller than they ordinarily enjoy, boredom and behavioral problems such as feather picking and egg-eating can result. By having some go-to boredom busters up one’s sleeve in lousy weather, chickens can be kept busy, entertained and happy.”

She goes on to list more than 20 chicken boredom buster projects including creating sort of poultry playstations with old chairs or ladders upon which they can climb, filling soda bottles with small holes punched in them with grain and letting the chickens chase those around and — my personal favorite — installing mirrors so the ladies may presumably primp and admire themselves all day.

If there are people willing to fork over that kind of money for oddly geometrically shaped eggs and if the Rusty Metal Chickens have already produced at least two round eggs, why not go all Euclidian on them and introduce some simple mathematics to their daily routine?

Seven hundred dollars for a round egg? Imagine the bidding war for say a rhombus egg or a trapezoidal egg.

Good idea in theory, but after attempting to introduce my flock to such basics as the workings of pi, the Pythagorean theorem and other geometrical concepts, I was taken back to the terrors of eighth grade math.

I now understand the nuns’ frustrations as my classmates and I looked every bit as blank as chickens when presented with the axioms and calculations chalked out on the blackboard.

Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure my own expressions were far blanker than those of the chickens.

Regardless, turns out poultry do not make the best math students and waxing poetic about the simplistic beauty of basic mathematical concepts ruffled hardly a feather.

But I remain undaunted since this is not the first time I’ve delved into a bit of egg alchemy.

A few years back I hosted a lobster boil on the farm. Knowing chickens love seafood shells, I tossed the lobster remnants into the coop and let them have at it.

In no time, those lobster shells were clean as a whistle. Two days later, I was scrambling up a couple of eggs collected that morning and the steam rising from those eggs actually smelled of lobster.

Lobster-infused eggs seem like money in the bank on their own. But lobster infused and round?

Talk about creating a nest egg.

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent is an award winning writer and photographer, who writes part time for Bangor Daily News. Her column appears here every other Friday. She can be reached by email at jbayly@bangordailynews.com.


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