The Case of the Cursed Egg

Most mornings you’ll find me sleepy-eyed and confused wandering around my backyard in a robe. It’s like a scene out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sans medication time and a mean nurse Ratchet (my all time favorite book by the way, cheers Ken Kesey and all your Merry Pranksters).

My dog (and possibly my neighbors) observe this slow-moving and butt scratching beast with an apprehension usually reserved for a schizophrenic having a heated debate with a rusty tin can and a bit of used dental floss.

It takes a good hour before I “come alive” and when I do, I’m just grateful that I’m not standing on the roof of the house naked. Not a morning person.

Why all this colorful explanation regarding my morning routines? Because the other morning I witnessed something that instantly shook me out of my zombie mode just by the shear uncanniness of it. My Easter egger hen, Mia, had somehow laid a magical mini egg! “What the shit?” said I. “What manner of sorcery is this?”.

The Case of the Cursed Egg 02_barely a handful
FREAK!
The Case of the Cursed Egg 02b_camparative size to normal eggs
It won’t even fit on my super sweet egg skelter device 🙁

The Case of the Cursed Egg 02c_cock egg and quarter for scale

In order to facilitate yet another late day to work, I quickly went to the Interwebs to get to the bottom of this mystery. I am often easily distracted. Oh, what’s that?…

The good (and boring) news is that it’s a completely normal biological process that a chicken goes through when there’s some foreign material or reproductive tissue in the hens oviduct that triggers the formation of an egg around the material. The chicken body treats it like a yolk and it goes on down the production line like there’s no problem at all. the lack of a yolk produces a much smaller egg that usually has a much thicker shell. Yawn.

The Case of the Cursed Egg 03_hens reproductive system
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So that’s the science behind this mystery. Also, a chicken vagina has finally graced the electric pages of Mind Your Dirt. Huzzah!


But when it comes to The Interwebs, one can never simply stop along the road of research just because an answer has been found. A good scientist tests and re-tests his/her hypothesis. With good ol’ fashioned folklore and tales of witchcraft!

In ancient folklore, an egg of this nature was called a Cock Egg. It was called such because it was believed to be laid by a rooster. A matter of great spiritual concern, especially if you brought it into the house. Which I had promptly done before doing my scientific research. If you do that, then you will suffer from bad luck, illness or much much worse!

I’m not too worried because they were highly valued by your local sorcerer for their use in magic spells and potions! I’ve always considered myself  a modern sorcerer so maybe it’s not all bad that I brought it inside.

However, there is another huge risk, according to legend. If a serpent or toad or witch breaks in and tries to incubate the egg (Which would be worth seeing, so I’ve been leaving the back door open all night), then the egg would either hatch into a Cockatrice…

The Case of the Cursed Egg 04_cockatrice
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Or even worse, a Basilisk!

The Case of the Cursed Egg 04_basilisk
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My regular readers know all about my constant Basilisk problems!! They really tear up my garden and constantly avoid my monster/demon traps! Really cuts into my trapping success ratio.

According to (my made up) legend, only a power weasel wearing a tutu made of juniper shrubs soaked in hobo tears has the power to ward off the evil Basilisk and Cockatrice! But none of my weasels will wear the silly things! Willful little beasts!

The Case of the Cursed Egg 06_Weasel vs basilisk
The timeless battle between fancy tutu weasel and dragon chicken

In the Middle Ages, what unexplained folklore would be complete without the aid of Satan himself. Old Scratch doesn’t just mess with people, but animals as well. A Cock Egg was a clear sign that The Fallen One has been snooping around the hen house.

Get this, in 1474 in Basel, Switzerland, a rooster went to trial for allegedly laying a Cock Egg. He couldn’t get decent representation and was found guilty of Satanic witchcraft and burned at the stake. Seriously. This happened.

The Case of the Cursed Egg 07_Rooster burned at the stake
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“…the execution took place with as great a solemnity as would have be observed in consigning a heretic to the flames, and was witnessed by an immense crowd of townsmen and peasants.”

American author and educator, E.V. Walter in his essay – Nature On Trial – The Case Of A Rooster That Laid An Egg

Oh what a crazy bunch we humans are! But maybe this is where fried chicken comes from?!

Later in the Middle Ages the term Witch Egg emerges and much later in the Victorian Era, Fairy Egg. There are a few places in Scotland and parts of Europe that have used the term Wind Egg. Perhaps because a yolk-less egg  lacks substance. And lastly, leave it to we Americans to coin the term, ahem…Fart Egg. Stay classy America!

I will keep you posted on any evil hatchings or demonic possessions as they happen in real time via my YouTube channel. If I’m able to that is. If I begin writing blog posts like the following…

“We are Legion and We love organic produce…”

…call an old priest and a young priest on my behalf.

Until then be safe and always know where to find your local sorcerer!!

Piper’s New House

Before I begin this little story, please forgive my long absence. I shan’t bore you with the messy and gritty details as to why I went off the rails, but I will say that every now and again my career at the museum tends to draw energy into itself. Like a black hole, not even light can escape.

I’m not saying that I’ve been there 24/7, but the times when I was finally home and could’ve written you many posts, something had happened to my brain as well as my will power. I sat in front of the computer and drooled. Devoid of any sense or reason, I typed the same thing over and over and over. “All work and no play makes James a dull boy”

This was then proceeded by a short stint working as the off season manager of the Overlook Hotel and then some other stuff that I can’t seem to recall. I vaguely remember some kind of hedge maze…

Regardless, I am here again. I humbly thank you for you patience. Let us continue our journey shall we?…

During my downtime at the Overlook Hotel, I also engaged in one or two projects. One of which was to design and construct a new coop for Piper to finally get her away from those chicken bullies. I had a finite amount of scrap wood and hardware in the garage and seeing as I had no extra money to spend on the project, I wanted to make said supplies work for a nice little coop design. With such tight parameters, there was only on thing to do; build it all first in a 3D program. Once again, I turned to SketchUp, the best free program in the universe. I used this program to design my larger loft style coop as well.

Firstly, I added all of the scrap pieces into the program to begin to piece them all together. With a little Tetris-like arranging, I was able to maximize my yield and crate a cut list with my meager supplies. No room for error with this carpentry project!

Measure fifteen times, cut once!
Measure fifteen times, cut once!

Full disclosure, I didn’t actually use that old-timey drill seen in the above photo. I just thought it would look nicer than my Panasonic cordless. What a deceitful carpenter I be! Yeah? Get over it.

Here’s the final 3D rendering in a futuristic video form. What wonders we shall see!

 

Impressive yes? I can’t stress enough how much I love SketchUp. To be able to maximize my yield as well as test all the doors and hinges is priceless. Once all the details were worked out and the design was polished, I began assembling the coop. No small task as every single piece of wood was used, full of holes and painted. So I spent most of my time sanding, refinishing the wood and pulling nails and staples.

It took a lot longer to build than I anticipated but I really got into a zen state from all the sanding and shaping of the reclaimed wood. I haven’t spent this much time on a carpentry project since I was Head Carpenter at the San Diego Museum of Art. It did my soul good to work on this project. Also, it turned out pretty close to my original drawing. Check it out.

Pipers new coop 13A_Composite 1

Pipers new coop 13B_Composite 2

Pipers new coop 13C_Composite 3

Pipers new coop 13D_Composite 4

Not too shabby huh? But what good is all this work if it isn’t properly Piper approved? No good. To answer my own question. So the next stage was to get the little fuzzy fluffball inside to test it out.

All in all, I think she approves. However, I am not too happy with the size restrictions here. I want to get another silkie hen to keep her company and there’s barely enough room for Piper. Perhaps I should have bitten the bullet and purchased some extra lumber. Hind sight is 20/20.

I’ve decided to open up the back panels and add an additional room to the back which will double the width of her coop without causing me to lose any of the hard work I’ve already done. I’ll submit my permits for an add-on with the city post haste. No, no I won’t. Shhh!

I also was planning on giving her a mini run on those planter beds to the right of the coop so she can better peck and scratch for bugs an critters and such. Between those two additions, I’ll feel better about having two bantam breeds in this mini-coop. Until then, I’m keeping her in with the big girls. It shouldn’t be too long of a wait though.

Then I’ll just have to wait for her fluffy feathers to grow back so she can reclaim her past glory. Just look at this little fluffball! Can you tell that I’m in love with this little angel? Now I’ve always loved chickens…on my plate. This is different though, because she loves me back! Raise a glass to our poor tortured heroine for soon she shall have peace and retirement and sweet cooing happiness.

Pipers New Coop 024_Piper Inspection 11

Backyard Chicken Eggonomics: How Much Does it Really Cost to Raise Chickens?

I’ve found that this is a question I’m often asked when I tell people that I raise backyard chickens. How much does it cost in dollars as well as time? So I decided to start taking notes of all my expenditure, the time that I spend on tending my flock as well as what I’m getting out of having backyard chickens. I always figured I kinda broke even, but I was surprised to discover that I actual turn a handsome profit for my labor of love. Continue reading “Backyard Chicken Eggonomics: How Much Does it Really Cost to Raise Chickens?”