"Preston's Ranch Fresh Eggs" reads the egg-shaped sign in front of our house. With 35 mature hens, and another 40 babies under the lamp, Preston has been selling eggs for $3 a dozen since this summer. Its a pretty good business for a six year old. He feeds, waters and collects the eggs every day. The eggs usually need to be washed before they are presentable for sale, and he gets that job too.
Two dozen eggs a day is pretty normal for these winter months. But suddenly, the yield went to 1 or 2 eggs a day. What the devil? Well, it has been raining. A lot. We are building our chickens a new barn to escape inclement weather, but they are wandering around in the muck this week--maybe that's why. Chickens have to be pretty happy to lay eggs. Bad weather might do it...
Then, 3 nights ago, I smell a skunk out there. Dirty little egg stealers! "That's the problem"' I think. Maybe this is Karma, after all the skunks I've whacked in my life. Somehow, the skunk must be getting in around the construction of the new barn and eating all the eggs--probably living under the unfinished barn. So I round up the boys and send them out to secure the coop! Tyler and Preston plug all the possible holes and we hope the problem is solved.
Next evening's chores? 1 muddy little egg. Customers are showing up, and we are out of product. Not good. How is that skunk getting at the eggs?! My brain starts scheming. Now that the city has moved into our back yard, shooting skunks under the chicken coop is considered poor etiquette and shows a lack of urbanity, or finesse.
So, last night on my way out to feed the cows, I shine my curious little flashlight into the chicken coop and see... 2 dozen muddy eggs! "Well then," I think..."its about time." So I feed my cows and putz around outside--taking in the smells of wet farm. Meantime, Preston comes out to do his chores. Suddenly, he calls out, "Dad, I smelled skunk really strong tonight by the water container."
"We are gonna get that egg thief one of these days!" I quickly reassure him as he goes back into the house, chores completed.
"Glad he came out when he did," I think. "Otherwise, that no good, dirty, egg-sucking thief of a skunk would have stolen today's eggs. Its funny I didn't pick up on the stench myself when I walked by the first time." Passing back by the coop, I shine my light inside one more time, happy that we outsmarted that old skunk. I stop cold. What I see completely stuns me. 2 dozen, freshly scrambled eggs, quietly oozing into the mud.
Its not easy for a 6 year old to admit he has been smashing the eggs for the last week. Stomping the eggs seemed a whole lot easier than washing them up to be sale-ready. That skunk we imagined was living fat off our eggs sure was a great diversion tactic while it lasted. And one more kid gets schooled, out behind the barn.