The Hen Who Laid Invisible Eggs

Large hen

The spring sun smiled brightly on the farmyard, where about a dozen hens and one strutting rooster scratched at the ground, pecking up bits of grain, small stones, tender young weeds, and juicy worms and bugs. They especially loved the worms and bugs.

One especially fine looking hen would periodically stop and turn in the sunlight so the sun could catch the gold lacing design on her feathers. She knew her feathers glowed golden in the sunlight and she was very proud of them. She posed a great deal when the farmer’s wife came to feed the chickens and collect the eggs, and she particularly enjoyed the compliments that the farmer’s wife gave her each day.

“Aren’t you a fine one, then?” the farmer’s wife would say. “So fluffy and shiny looking!” She called her Goldie for the gleaming gold in her feathers.

The farmer’s wife had a soft spot for another hen also. This hen was a middle aged hen, who was anything but fluffy and gleaming. She was rather thin looking, with an unimpressive gray and white feathering. She stood very upright, with a neck that went straight up on one end, and a tail that went straight up on the other end. Her breed was known for outstanding egg production though, and over the last few seasons she had proven her worth by being the soonest in the spring to lay, the last in the fall to stop laying, and the most consistent layer in between. She also normally sat at least one clutch of eggs each year, bringing new chicks into the barnyard to replace the aging hens.

When the farmer’s wife noticed this hen start to get broody, she would leave her alone and let her hatch the clutch of eggs. A good farmer’s wife knows that chicks from a good egg layer are worth more than the eggs, and lets her sit a clutch now and again if she gets broody.

The farmer’s wife named the skinny hen “Fayoumi”, and talked to her each day as she passed by to feed the hens and gather the eggs. Sometimes she’d pick her up and smooth her feathers, and Fayoumi always let her.

If a farm has good egg layers, then they’ll get an egg from every hen at least part of the time. This is how they know that all the hens are laying. This year, the farmer’s wife kept waiting in the spring for all the hens to be laying. But she never gathered more than 11 eggs. One of the hens was not laying this year.

The farmer’s wife told her husband that she knew that Fayoumi was getting past her prime, and maybe she was not laying this year. She felt a little sad about it, because Fayoumi was one of her favorite hens, and she had been such a good layer. A successful farm just does not have room to feed a hen that does not lay eggs, and Fayoumi was just not attractive enough to sell as a pet. The farmer’s wife decided to wait and watch, and see if she could see for certain whether Fayoumi was still laying or not.

Every morning, Fayoumi woke with the sun. She quietly climbed into the nest box and laid her egg, then she covered it with straw before hopping down and leaving the henhouse. She’d go off to hunt and scratch for a few hours, then she’d find a shady spot for an afternoon nap during the heat of the day. After her nap, she’d busily scratch until dusk, when she’d skitter into the henhouse with the other hens to roost for the night.

Goldie followed a different schedule. Goldie liked to wake up later in the day. She’d stay on the night roost until noon, and then she’d hop down and wander sleepily out into the yard. She would scratch around for a few hours, always appearing at the feeder when the farmer’s wife fed the chickens in the evening.

Sometime during the afternoon, most of the hens would head, one by one, for the nest boxes to lay their eggs. There were five nest boxes, and they liked the middle ones best. Fayoumi laid her egg in a corner nest box, and the other hens did not like the corner. The hens would deposit an egg, and then cackle loudly to announce their accomplishment. The rooster would cluck proudly to claim his part in the job.

Goldie never went first. She always waited until the other hens had all been in. She’d climb into the nest box, sit there for a while, and cackle loudly. She’d climb out as the rooster cheered her on.

But Goldie never laid an egg. She did not know how, and she couldn’t do it. She would always pick a nest box with eggs already in it, so no one would ever know she did not lay an egg.

One day, Goldie went into the henhouse too early, and all of the nest boxes were full except the one in the corner. Goldie decided she’d hide there until the other hens left, and then she’d pretend to lay an egg. To her surprise, she found an egg, at the back of the nest box, under the straw! She waited a few minutes, then cackled happily, and she uncovered the egg and hopped down.

The next day, she checked the corner box again, and sure enough, there was an egg under the straw again. From that day on, she used the corner nest box, and simply uncovered Fayoumi’s egg, and claimed it as her own. Of course, she had no idea whose egg she was claiming.

Fayoumi knew though. She noticed Goldie’s fraud. Fayoumi now knew that Goldie could not lay an egg. She also knew that Goldie was claiming Fayoumi’s egg, and she was not happy about it. She knew it would not last though – fraud has a way of exposing itself.

Goldie was not happy either. She lived in fear that someone would notice that she was not able to lay an egg. This made her feel like she had to make herself look more important, and like unhappy people often do, she decided to make someone else look bad, so she could try to make herself look better. Fayoumi looked like an easy target – she was skinny and not so young anymore, and she was quiet. So Goldie started to insult Fayoumi.

“Look at that lazy chicken,” she would cluck in the afternoon. “What is she doing taking a nap in the middle of the day? She should be laying an egg! I’ll bet she can’t even lay an egg anymore!” Goldie insulted and criticized and meanmouthed Fayoumi worse every day.

Then one day, Fayoumi skipped her afternoon nap. Instead, she found a bush in the corner of the farmyard, and began scratching out a nest. It took a few days to get it just right, and Goldie started criticizing her about sneaking off to take a nap where no one could see.

On the fourth day after Fayoumi had started making her nest, she was nowhere to be found in the farmyard! She was not in the henhouse at night, and she was not scratching in the yard when Goldie was up! Goldie thought Fayoumi had just run away. Goldie smiled at that, because this was proof that she was right about Fayoumi all along!

That afternoon, Goldie sauntered proudly into the henhouse, ready to begin her daily ruse. She hopped up into the corner nest box, but there was no egg! Goldie shrugged and moved over to a middle nest with several eggs already in it and faked laying an egg there. When there was no egg in the corner the next day either, Goldie knew that Fayoumi had laid the eggs that she had claimed for so long.

The farmer’s wife wasn’t worried about Fayoumi, because she got up earlier in the morning than Goldie did! She saw what Goldie missed – she saw Fayoumi come out from under the bush each morning, and scratch for food, and then go back under the bush. The farmer’s wife smiled… she knew that Fayoumi had not stopped laying after all. But she still did not know who was not laying.

The fair was coming, and the Farmer’s wife decided to enter Goldie in the fair. She was such a fine hen, she was sure to win a prize. Goldie was in the farmyard though, getting dusty and dirty as she scratched around each day. To win a prize, she’d need to be clean, so the farmer’s wife caught Goldie and put her in a small pen by herself. The pen was much cleaner than the dusty farmyard, and had a nest box in the corner. The farmer’s wife started her on special feed to make her look as pretty as possible. Goldie grew cleaner and sleeker every day. But the nest box in the pen never had an egg. The nest boxes in the henhouse had 10 eggs every day, and Goldie had none.

Goldie went to the fair, and won a blue ribbon. And then she went to the sale barn, where she was sold to a family who wanted a pet chicken, for $5 – they did not want to pay more for a chicken who could not lay eggs, even if she was so pretty. Goldie lived out her life in a back yard, with a bossy chicken who laid an egg every day except on the coldest days of winter, and who never let Goldie forget that she could not lay. The neighbor’s cat never attacked the chickens, but Goldie was always afraid that he just might.

A week after Goldie was sold, Fayoumi emerged from under the bush in the farmyard, with a clutch of eight fluffy chicks peeping loudly around her legs.

And the farmer’s wife smiled.

Moral: Fraud has a way of exposing itself, and faithfulness has its own reward.

THIS STORY and many more can be found on Amazon, for Kindle, in Laura’s storybook: A Little Romp Through Laura’s Storyland

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