The perils of egg collecting!

It occurred to me the other day while sitting outside one of the chook houses clutching my eye, that egg collecting is quite dangerous.  I realise it’s not in the same league as welding underwater pipelines or being a UN peacekeeper, but I certainly didn’t have the threat of an “eyeball swat” hanging over me when I had a desk job all those years ago.

It was the worst eyeball swat yet.  My eye was streaming, I was dizzy and I had been given an instant headache which was to last two days.  I know I sound awfully precious but wing feathers are quite tough and I’m sure they’d be jagged too, if viewed under a microscope.  The bird had appeared perfectly sane when I’d eased my hand under her to collect the eggs and I don’t know what had made her decide that at my third handful of eggs, I was worthy of attack.

Not all the hens fit into the stereotypical ideal of plump, motherly, and slightly scatterbrained beings.  There are birds, usually the white ones, who try to tear chunks out of your hand and the threateningly curious ones who study your nice, shiny orbs from their perch and you just know they’re wondering whether they taste as good as they look.  There are hens who sneak up behind and have a go at the tiny sliver of skin between the top of your jeans and the hem of your shirt that’s inadvertently ridden up when you’ve squatted to check the lowest nests.  Some use me as a stairway to the upper laying rows and others taste-test my wedding band and the steel rivets on my jeans. 

But then one must remember they are omnivores, although they eat lots of vegetation as it’s standing still and can’t get away.  They love insects and small animals – woe betide any lizards who stray into their field of vision.  And I caution any visitors over 55 to avoid having a heart attack when alone with the chickens as there’s not likely to be much in the way of remains to identify you by!    

But they are cute too.  Sometimes they have a sense of humour – they amuse themselves with plucking pieces of hay from their nest and sending them raining down on your head.  Some wait until your ear is in close proximity before announcing they’ve laid their egg.  And Goldie, the pet chook who lives in the house yard, follows us around remarking “Graaass, graaass, graaasshopper”. 

We’ve been pecked, scratched, flapped, squawked at and excreted on by many of our beloved workers.  But in some ways these inconveniences pale into insignificance when compared to larger OH&S issues – bits of wire John’s used to “fix” things; being mobbed by five over-enthusiastic Maremmas after they’ve swum in the dam; stairs into the henhouse minus a government approved handrail, or no stairs at all, requiring that the egg-collectors scramble into the house in a most unbecoming fashion; and deep, leg-breaking dustbathing holes – not to mention the possibility of snakes lurking in the grass.

Maybe I’d better invest in some protective eyewear at least.  Or just send the kids!