Wondering what "Atlanta to Appalachia" is all about? It's part of an occasional series about life in the wilds of West Virginia through the eyes of a couple who never dreamed they'd love it there. Read previous installments here.
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I bumped into my neighbor Brooks at Sam's Club and, as often happens when you run into people in a small town, the conversation veered to livestock. Brooks was telling me a story about the time he and his wife, Bunnie, first started raising chickens. They had spent months setting up their backyard and pouring money into building the perfect high-end coop. The baby chicks arrived, grew to maturity and eventually began laying eggs.
"I told my wife that I have dibs on eating that first egg," Brooks recalled, as we stood by a display of Member's Mark sweatpants.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because I wanted to know what a $7,000 egg tastes like."
I've thought about this story often as Elizabeth and I have watched our own flock grow. Our seven chickens — each one named after a different female NPR newscaster — live a luxurious life and lack for nothing. Nina Totenberg (or is it Nina Toten-bird?) relishes taking dust baths in the specialized sand we had trucked in from a neighboring county that provides a supple and soft flooring for her claws. Eventually, Yuki Noguchi and Melissa Block and the aptly named Audie Cornish will return the favor, delivering fresh eggs to our breakfast table on a daily basis.
We've always known the eggs were coming; it's always been just a matter of time.
In the meantime, Cokie Roberts and company have the run of the place.
Terry Gross (the chicken) will always be the first
Terry Gross, an excellent interviewer in human form, lacks the same panache in her pullet permutation. For starters, with her bizarre bushel of facial hair, she kind of looks like a civil war serviceman reincarnated as a chicken.
She was the first to go through "the change," maturing from an awkward teenage chicken to a "Good God, get this egg out of me" hen. For days, she was acting strange and squawking non-stop. She would jump the fence and start roaming the property, presumably to look for a place to lay her first egg. As I approached her, she squatted — a tell-tale sign of sexual maturity in chickens.
Like a woman going through labor pains, it was clear what was coming. While Lakshmi Singh and the rest of the NPR ladies free-ranged in the yard, Elizabeth spent the morning hanging out on the floor of the coop as Terry squawked in circles, desperately trying to find the optimal space to get this thing out. We have cubbies called nesting boxes attached to the coop, providing the needed privacy that hens like to have while laying eggs. On the advice of our mentor, The Chicken Chick, we even placed fake decoy eggs in the cubbies to show our chickens where to do their business.
After spending a couple of hours with her, we went inside to go on with our day. After all, a watched egg never hatches. (Or something like that.) As the sun began to set, we walked back outside to the chicken yard to check in on the gang and to see if Terry had left us a present. Lo and behold, there it was — right inside the nesting boxes, just beside the decoy eggs, Terry had laid her very first egg. She's an Easter Egger, which means her eggs will be colored. The one in the box was green with an olive hue. It was beautiful.
We snuggled with Terry to congratulate her on a job well done and forced her to pose with us for an inordinate number of selfies. We updated our life status on Facebook, and quickly garnered more than 100 "Likes." Elizabeth brought the egg inside and propped it on a special gold-encrusted egg holder she'd bought on eBay. The egg, for now, would be on display — first in our sunroom, where the windows provide good lighting for another round of photos, then to our living room so we could stare at it from the comfort of the couch. Eventually, as night and weariness overcame us, the egg display would be moved to our bedroom, so it would be the last thing we saw as we drifted off to sleep and the first thing we saw in the morning.
Eventually, I assume, it will move to the kitchen. And I will finally discover what a $7,000 egg tastes like.