Egg Basket

I have a professional cooking background, so you can imagine how attached I am to my kitchen tools. I have had the same chef knife for 25 years. It is perfectly balanced and the right size for my hand. I have a flexible spatula that is probably 40 years old. It is irreplaceable. The right tool can make a task a pleasure. The wrong tool can make you doubt that the job is worth doing. 

The same goes for work around the coops. I have a straw broom that is a pleasure to use. When I sweep the barn with it, the job is done quickly, and I have a sense of accomplishment. When I use the cheap-o plastic broom, I hurry through the work and am not as thorough. 

Tools don’t have to be expensive to be a joy to use. I have a hand weeder that cost less than $10. It’s a simple wooden handle with a straight spike for digging out roots, like dandelions. It’s getting old and I’ve tried to find another. None fits in my hand the same way. None give me the same leverage.

Collecting eggs is probably the favorite task for most chicken keepers, but even that requires a tool – a basket. I’ve had baskets that, if set down a tad roughly, the eggs would break. I’ve had baskets that tipped over. I’ve had baskets too big for the number of eggs that I collect, so that they rolled into each other and smashed.

This is my perfect basket. I found it an an antique shop, but it cost no more than a new one in a catalog. It has small feet, so the eggs don’t break when put it down. The opening curves in so the eggs don’t fall out (and the dogs can’t reach their noses in if I leave it too long on the back porch.) It is exactly the right size for the number of eggs that I collect (these are from yesterday.) The icing on the cake is that the basket is beautiful. But, aren’t all well-loved tools?


Hard at Work

I have been getting my raised vegetable beds ready for planting. Here I’ve added some of Farmer Duffy’s aged cow manure to top soil. Doesn’t it look yummy already?


I let the chickens out of their runs. I expected them to join me in the garden and scratch for grubs. I could use the help.

But, no, they had better things to do. All of the big girls from the big barn hurried over to the “spa” in the HenCam yard, where they luxuriated in a dirt bath. 


Meanwhile, I got dirty working hard in the vegetable garden. We all had a good day.


Although there is still snow in the shadows of the front porch


These appeared today!


The chickens KNOW that the ground is soft enough to scratch up bugs. All I have to do is turn the mudroom doorknob and they hurry to their run’s screen door. They KNOW I am coming out. They KNOW that I will let them onto the lawn and in the gardens. I have been disappointing them. Hawks have been flying overhead and I don’t want anyone snatched up. It’s hard to explain that to a hen, though. Whenever I step outside, Marge BAWKS at me. She is impatient. She is annoyed. She is LOUD.

I do want to get the girls into my veg garden, where they will eat up all of the overwintered grubs. Last spring, my “under gardeners” decimated the cut worm population. Maybe this afternoon I’ll let them out. If you see Candy, the bunny, shut into her hutch, then the girls are out in the yard. I’m sure Candy would like to explore the great outdoors, but, unlike the chickens, she doesn’t come when called. She’ll just have to watch safe in her home.

Fact vs. Fiction

Tillie Lays an Egg is a work of fiction. However, I did have discussions with my editor about proposed changes that I couldn’t accept because they would have contradicted Tillie’s chicken-ness. I wanted the characters to behave true to what a chicken does and what she knows. Tillie’s forays into the house are exactly what those bantam white leghorns would do if allowed. Her joy at finding worms in the garden is true to form, as is deciding to nap in a basket of clothes.

The exception? That bit about sharing nesting boxes. There are 7 hens in the HenCam barn, and 6 nesting boxes. But, I do not find an egg in each box. No! I find all of the eggs in one box.


Hens want what the other hens have. If one girl is in a box, then the other girls want to be there, too. They don’t always wait their turn, either! I have seen one hen loudly clucking at another to “get up! get out!” I have found one hen trying to squeeze into a box, on top of another – even when there are 5 empty nesting boxes. It’s not even as if one box is better than the rest. Yesterday, there were 5 eggs laid in that middle box. Today, they are all in the right-hand box. 

Greedy, jealous, silly hens.