They did, at least, have two hens in their backyard, which they had been tending to for a few years. They enjoyed going outside to feed the hens and collect their eggs, but even the hens began to appear lonely. They didn’t cluck or scratch about as much as they used to. They missed the neighbors that used to stop by on occasion to feed them. Now, those neighbors, along with everyone else, stayed shuttered fearfully inside their houses and fenced into their own yards.
One day, the woman had a great idea—they would get some more hens, and even some roosters too! Why, they’d get a whole flock of chickens to keep them company! Then they wouldn’t be so lonely anymore. The man agreed and began reading as much as he could about all the different chicken breeds, while the woman set off to build a larger hoop house to fit all their new friends.
Before they knew it, they had a whole flock of fifty chickens living in a brand-new hoop house. The only problem: the different breeds didn’t get along one bit. And not just the roosters, who always fight for the role of the top cock, but the hens too! They all squabbled, scraped, and screeched. They pecked, picked, and plucked each other’s feathers out. They just couldn’t seem to understand one another.
The fancy French chickens, with their rich black copper plumage, were the snobbiest and haughtiest. They looked down their beaks at all the other chickens.
“We’re the most desirable and beautiful chickens in all of poultrydom,” one Black Copper Maran clucked. “Our dark chocolate-colored eggs are just exquisite. Did you know that Julia Child only cooked with our eggs? That’s because they’re très délicieux.”
The German Deathlayers were the most hardcore, hardworking chickens, with their entirely black beady eyes, and the iridescent greens and purples in their black tails. As you can probably imagine, the Black Copper Marans and the Deathlayers did not get along very well.
“Du bist eklig!” one Deathlayer said. “And your eggs are gross too! Who gives a squawk about the egg’s color anyway? They all taste the same. What matters is how many eggs you can lay, and we, the Deathayers, talons-down, lay the most! As the legend goes, we keep laying until we die! We don’t waste any time, or take any breaks like you silly, frivolous Marans.”
“Hmph,” the Maran lifted her beak, tossed her ear tufts, and flounced away.
The other divas of the flock—the Copper-Laced Wyandotte chickens—were so fluffed up with themselves that when it rained, they would strut around the puddles, watching and admiring their reflections. They liked to brag about the intricacies and glamour of their feathering.
The Dutch Welsummer hens had gold around their necks and feathering with a pretty partridge patterned. Most of the time, they were mild, kind, and soft-spoken, but they were also practical, prideful and didn’t tolerate any nonsense, especially when it came to the quality of their eggs.
“The deep reddish brown of our eggs is simply the handsomest and that’s that,” one Welsummer hen said.
The original two hens that the couple had owned before the flock were a hybrid breed called the Whiting True Greens. Since they were the oldest and wisest, the True Greens usually did their best to stay out of the squabbling and mischief, preferring to watch from afar, gabbing and gossiping. But on this matter, they just couldn’t keep their beaks shut.
“Oh please,” one said. “You all are mistaken! Our eggs are the best! I mean, they’re GREEN! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Green eggs! It’s simply the most marvelous thing. It’s what kids dream about on Easter!”
Uh oh … she shouldn’t have said that, because now, the Easter Eggers—a popular mix of heirloom American breeds—were not happy.
“Excuse me?” one Easter Egger hen said. “Did you just say Easter? Uh, hello … that is literally our name! And we produce not only green eggs, but also blue, pink, and brown in multiple shades and hues!”
Ah, such was a day among the bickering chickens of the hoop house. But it got worse …
One day, a Deathlayer thought she would play a prank on one of the highfalutin Marans. She swallowed her nerves, along with a healthy portion of food scraps, and scrambled up the roost, then jumped onto one of the metal railings of the hoop house. There she waited for a Maran to prance beneath. At just the right moment, she relieved herself and the gooey white poop fell smack dab on the Maran’s comb.
The Maran screeched in horror. She ran around, as if her head had been chopped off, searching for some dry soil, mulch, or sand to burrow into and take a dust bath. But, alas, it was late winter, and the snow was melting, turning the ground to moist mud. She screeched again. Only then did she hear the Deathlayers cackling in amusement.
“Did you see her comb?” one laughed. “Oh, that was priceless!”
From that moment on, a cold war began in poultrydom. The Wyandottes, who were also divas and, thus, understood the plight of the Marans, joined their team, which made the Welsummers join the Deathlayers. The Whiting True Greens said they were too old for all this hassle, so they were neutral, while the Easter Eggers scattered some on each side.
To get back at the Deathlayers, the Marans began destroying the eggs of the Deathlayers. They would peck at the eggs until they cracked and the yellow yoke oozed everywhere. This drove the Deathlayers crazy because they prided themselves on their incredibly high eggs counts.
Eventually, the Deathlayers madness became unbearable. They had to do something that would get the Marans off their eggs forever. Something that would really spook them for good.
You see, the Black Copper Marans, although the most elegant poultry, were not the most intelligent, so it was easy for the Deathlayers to trick them. When the Marans weren’t paying attention, the Deathlayers would come up behind them, peck and pull at their feathers and quickly run off.
It was to the point where many of the Marans were nearly bare, shivering in their nakedness, which, was a sad sight to see. These creatures, that were once revered for their beauty, were now scraggly and sickly, which took a great toll on them. But, of course, they were stubborn and would not, under any circumstances, entertain a truce with the Deathlayers. Instead, they began brainstorming ways to grow more feathers faster. Maybe they could increase their calcium intake? Eat more berries—they’re supposed to be rich in antioxidants? Rub themselves in a balm of some sort?
One Deathlayer overheard this chatter and said, matter-of-factly, “All you have to do to grow more feathers is get more starlight.”
Most of the Marans ignored her, but one—a very gullible one—cocked her head. “What’d you say?”
“Starlight,” the Deathlayer repeated. “Well, and moonlight. It’s simple—you just go outside at night and bask in the light from the stars and the, uh, Vitamin S and Vitamin M will, uh, invigorate your feather follicles! Your feathers will be growing in no time.”
Another Maran overhead this conversation and butted in. “You’re lying. You’re just trying to trick us! It’s dangerous out there!” she squawked.
“Not if you only stay outside for a little while,” the Deathlayer said. “Your body doesn’t need too much starlight, isn’t that right, Sisi?”
Sisi was the kindest, sweetest, softest Easter Egger hen in the whole hoop house. Because she had a crossed scissor beak, she had never grown to her full size, so everyone doted on her like a chick.
“Oh yes,” Sisi squeaked. “I do it every night after everyone else falls asleep.”
“Really?” the Marans clucked in unison. They were all ears now. Everyone knew that little Sisi never told a lie. Not to mention, as much as the Marans hated to admit it, Sisi’s feathers were the softest and thickest in the whole flock.
“Yes, yes,” Sisi continued, her voice wavering. “I’ll, uh, show you tonight!”
The Marans all agreed in excitement. Soon, their feathers would be just as soft and fluffy as Sisi’s. Little did they know that Sisi was on the verge of tears, for the biggest and meanest Deathlayer hen had threatened her if she wouldn’t go along with their plan. She felt immensely guilty about lying to the Marans.
Later that night, Sisi showed them how she had dug a hole in the back corner of the hoop house, from which she squeezed through to the great outside. Then she showed them how she lounged on a tuft of grass, indolently picking for worms while the moonlight bathed her beautiful plumage for ten or fifteen minutes, then she came back inside, completely unharmed.
The next day, the Marans set about to dig the hole big enough for them to fit through, then after dusk fell, they snuck outside to the grass patch. They had never seen the sky at night and were mesmerized by the glistening diamonds up above. And even though it was a bit chilly, they felt so luxurious as the light from the moon and stars shone on their poor, bare backs. They felt like starlets from old movies. They were enjoying themselves so much that they barely noticed the time pass.
Eventually, the Marans came back to the hoop house, but something wasn’t right. One hen pushed herself through the outer opening of the hole, but then she ran against a hard, thick layer of dirt, food scraps and hay. The hole was blocked.
The Maran screeched and shrieked. “Let us in, let us in!”
Inside the hoop house, the Deathlayers were hooting and hollering in delight. They had fooled the silly Marans! All day they had been hiding big pieces of food scraps, like citrus peels; hay and mud to make a thick plaster, which they quickly pushed into the hole after the Marans had gone outside. They really got them this time! Those prissy hens would be stuck outside all night now in the cold!
Little Sisi was in a corner of the roost fretting. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad, really bad, was going to happen. The chickens all had natural instincts that told them it was dangerous to be outside at night. But, since there hadn’t been a predator attack during the entire existence of the flock, they thought maybe those instincts were wrong. What was the worst that could happen anyway?
In the morning, they discovered that things were way worse than they could’ve imagined. When the woman came to feed them, she gasped and ran to the house to get her husband. On the ground were lying the remaining black feathers of the Marans, and bloody bones. The fisher cat must’ve eaten them.
The other chickens looked out the back of the hoop house in shock. The Deathlayers had never thought something like this would happen. Little Sisi cried and cried. What had she done?
Lightning cracked, thunder boomed, and thus began a long storm.
For days, the heavy rain fell, and the sky was gray, reflecting the gloom of the hoop house. Only Sisi held out a faint trace of hope that the Marans would return, but still, after nearly a week, they were nowhere to be seen. The rest of the chickens still seemed frozen in shock. Yes, they ate their fermented feed, drank water, pooped, and roosted, like usual, but these daily motions were meaningless, and because of the stress, barely anyone laid an egg. They were all numb with grief and missed the hoity-toity chatter of the Marans. The hoop house felt empty without them.
The old couple was also very sad because they wondered what they had done wrong. How had they not been able keep their chickens safe? Their chickens were supposed to trust them. Maybe the flock had been a bad idea. Maybe they weren’t cut out to be farmers.
Then, one day, a hairy creature named Big Foot, walked into the hoop house. She gave the chickens quite a start, for they had never seen such a mystical-looking yeti before. Was she a human or was she animal?
“Good morning my darlings,” Big Foot said kindly. “Don’t be scared of me, you silly little things! I am here to bring you a great surprise.”
Big Foot opened the front door of the hoop house and suddenly, the Black Copper Marans came rushing in. They were alive! But how?
“When I saw your lovely little friends outside the other night and saw the nasty trick you were playing on them,” Big Foot began. “I couldn’t help myself from interfering. Together, we made a plan. We plucked out some of their feathers, gathered leftover bones from nearby garbage cans, and smashed up the red bittersweet plant to make fake blood, then we carefully created that horrific scene. After that, I brought the Marans back to my cave in the woods, where we waited out the storm by telling stories warm by the campfire and munching on my emergency stockpile of food scraps.”
“You tricked us!” a Wyandotte hen exclaimed. “How clever, but, how cruel—for days, you let us think the Maran were dead!”
“Yes,” Big Foot said. “I had to. It was the only way you would all realize the terrible consequences of what you had done. And not just the Deathlayers, but all of you—even those who weren’t involved stood by passively and let the treachery occur. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. No argument or disagreement is ever worth putting your friends in danger.”
“But we’re not friends!” a Deathlayer hen said petulantly.
“Yes, we are,” Little Sisi spoke up. “We are all friends now.”
“See, that’s the spirit!” Big Foot said. “You’re all friends and that means you can all agree to disagree. Just because you’re different doesn’t mean you have to compete with one another or hate each other. You can accept and honor each other’s differences, coexist, and work together as a team to accomplish things that would never be possible when divided.”
The chickens clucked about in agreement, nodding their heads at each other. They had never thought of working together before.
Just then, the storm, which had begun to clear up when Big Foot appeared, completely stopped. The dark clouds dissipated revealing blue skies, sunlight, and a big, beautiful rainbow.
“Hey!” Sisi said. “I have an idea! Instead of arguing about whose eggs are the best, why don’t we all put all our eggs together, like a rainbow?”
The chickens all squawked in agreement and hens of different breeds began sitting together and sharing nests, which is something they never would’ve done before. And yes, even a Maran and a Deathlayer shared one cozy nest, nestling into each other like old friends.
Later, when the couple discover that their Black Copper Marans had returned, safely, to the flock, they were so overjoyed and thankful for Big Foot’s help, that they named their fledging farm after her: Big Foot Food Forest. And when the couple went to collect the eggs and noticed that the different colors were all mixed together, they began arranging their eggs like a rainbow in the carton, which they sold to all their friends and family.
The couple realized that although farming was tough, and mistakes inevitable, the hard work was worth it in the end because it brought them closer to nature and all of earth’s creatures—human, hairy and feathery!
Eventually, like the storm, and like the sadness the chickens felt when the Marans were missing, the great sickness also passed, and friends and family came over all the time to lend a hand at Big Foot Food Forest. And, of course, they said hello to the famous chickens that had created the rainbow eggs they know and loved so well.
This is a fairy tale, but Big Foot Food Forest in Montague is real. Join our Rainbow Egg CSA and get rainbow colored eggs delivered to your door weekly or bi-weekly in Greenfield. Email us at bigfootfoodforest.com, visit bigfootfoodforest.com/eggcsa, or just click here to sign up!