You will be pleased to hear that the Magnificent-Man family is expecting a baby. Ten babies, in fact. Maybe eight. Depends. Lucida is a fairly small hen, and some of the eggs are sort of poking out. I assume if one half of an egg stays incubatorily warm and the other doesn’t, we’ll end up with some kind of mutant semi-chicken? Hard to know. Anyway, she is currently doing her best with three White Orpington eggs, three Silver Laced Wyandotte eggs and four Coronation Sussex eggs. If she can keep it up for twenty-one days without starving to death, which apparently some excessively devoted chickens do, we will, like, triple our flock. Quadruple? I don’t know. We have four, and we’ll have ten more. I did English.
Obtaining the eggs was quite an experience. I looked all over TradeMe for fertile eggs,, but most people were selling a whole dozen of one breed, and I wanted a kind of pick’n'mix vibe, ’cause racial harmony. So eventually I found a breeder who sold eggs individually and claimed to live in Morrinsville, which was about thirty minutes away from being true.
When we eventually found the place it was charming and idyllic - fat pigs, low-slung dogs, tiny calves, chickens and ducks wandering around, and cages of day-old chicks and slightly bigger gawky ones peeping picturesquely. The snortlepig was cooing all over the place, and Tiny Miles was chortling at the calves as they licked his legs. “How nice,” thunk I; “we could stay for a bit and see the beasts.”
But then the lady of the establishment came out to meet us. I apologised for being late, in a manner which only subtly implied they shouldn’t have misrepresented their location by half a tank of 91.
“That’s OK, I guess,” she said rather stiffly. “What do you want?”
A little taken aback, I requested some White Orpington eggs.
“They’re expensive,” she said darkly. “$4.50 each.”
“That’s OK,” I said, with the seasoned look of a man used to shelling out for Quality.
“I don’t have any here,” she said. “I’ll have to go look in the pens.” She stared at me defiantly for a while.
“Um, OK, thanks,” I said. She stared at me for a little longer, looking outraged.
“I suppose they’re not TOO far,” she said, and stumped off. She returned shortly, thrust a finger in my face and said “I got pecked for my trouble.”
“Oh dear!” I said. “I am sorry. And there were no eggs?” I gave a light laugh, to commiserate with her at the hazards of our mutual chicken ownership. She looked outraged again.
“No, there were eggs,” she said scornfully. “They’re in my pocket.” She took them out, scribbled WO on them and put them in a carton. Then she stared at me again for a bit. I began to panic slightly. Perhaps I could butter her up by appealing to her expertise.
“So,” I said, “I’ve never really done this before. How many do you think I should get? If I put, say, half a dozen under a chicken, would I be likely to get six chickens, or five, or..?”
“I can’t control the germination rate,” she snapped. “I’m not guaranteeing anything. It’s up to the chicken.”
“No, no, indeed, quite,” I said hastily. “I’m just wondering, if I wanted to get one Wyandotte, would it be best to get two eggs, or…?”
“One of them might be a rooster,” she said. She hoped it would be; you could tell.
“Ah, right, yus, of course,” I said. “Um, could I get three of those Silver Laced Wyandotte eggs, then?”
She put them in. “What else?”
I pointed to some attractive blondeish-grey chickens. “Which ones are those?” I said.
“They’re Coronation Sussex,” she said angrily.
“Oh yes, I wanted some of those. They’re lovely.”
She emitted the snort one gives when the universe has conspired against one. There was a wealth of cynicism in it. “Typical”, it said viciously to the world. I quailed.
“I’ll have to go all the way to the house,” she said. “I just took two dozen back to the house. All that work wasted.”
I apologised once more, feeling small and edible.
“I packaged up two dozen this morning, and someone didn’t do what they said,” she spat. “I had to take them all back to the house.”
The house was about fifteen feet away from us. I nearly offered to go myself, but some kind of hound was baying in the kitchen, and it seemed likely that she would sic him on me. So I waited meekly while she stomped away and stomped back. She had brought four, which is more than I wanted, but it didn’t seem wise to quibble.
After a nasty moment in which I couldn’t find my purse - Tiny Miles having dropped it down the side of his carseat - I handed over my $31 and she became marginally friendlier.
“Don’t shake the eggs up,” she said as I got back in the car. “It’s not good for them. Like shaking a baby.”
We drove away swiftly, and did not forget to shut the gate.