They are blond and trim and lively. Their combs haven\’t fully developed, so their heads look disproportionately small, even for a chicken. They stick together like a gaggle of eighth-grade girls at the mall. I have named them Do, Re, Mi, and Fa.
No rooster, you ask? No successor to Charlemagne? No bridegroom to greet the sun, to point out worms, to watch for hawks, to lead the way to the roost at night, and…do what bridegrooms do?
It\’s the last that is the problem. Roosters do it so indefatigably that they need at least eight wives to (in the words of the Catholic Church regarding the secondary function of marriage) “allay concupiscence.” Otherwise you end up with a bunch of bedraggled, de-feathered, freaked-out hens. So no rooster this time—just the virginal quartet. There is a kind of conventual peace about a rooster-less flock, and I am looking forward to that.
I am also looking forward to eggs, lots of eggs. Young hens lay an egg a day, even in the cold and dark of winter. And that time of year is not far off. For weeks now, ever since the solstice, I\’ve watched for the yellowing of the tips of certain trees and bushes. In our field the Saint John\’s Wort (so named because it blooms on Saint John\’s feast day, June 21) has given way to goldenrod and Queen Anne\’s lace. The sunflowers are in bloom, and there\’s a melon-sized pumpkin on the vine.
But there\’s still plenty of time for Do, Re, Mi and Fa to fatten up on bugs and snails before the first frost. Right now the pullets are locked up in the shed, but tomorrow I will move them to their summer quarters, the portable coop in the field. Kept from going astray by a movable fence, they will dig dust baths, feign alarm at imaginary dangers, and generally disport themselves. And one day, when the foliage has begun to turn for real, I will look in the nest and find the first small, dusty-pink egg.