Aunt Linda here: Mother hens are keeping their hatchlings close this cool Tucson morning. As it warms up, they will give vigorous lessons in scratching and foraging. While most hens will teach their young the skills they need to survive, the heirloom Java breed is especially good at parenting. This breed is known not only for being excellent parents, but robust foragers – and are able to tolerate heat well. The second oldest variety of chicken in the U.S, they are a wonderful heirloom breed for the desert southwest.One Java rooster that I raised will wait to eat until all his hens and chicks are well into their meal. He watches attentively, and only once he is satisfied that all are well fed, will he begin his own feasting. So strong is their parental instinct, ( they are the one breed in my flock that can I count on to “go broody” each year), that I in a pinch, I have been able to use Java hens to hatch duck and turkey eggs, when no mother of those species had been available or willing. (Note: I am emphasizing the parental strengths of the Java here; there can be unexpected adventures (read complications), so query someone with experience before you undertake this. It is just one of those creative pieces of animal husbandry that are sometimes necessary, but not necessarily the ideal. It is much like using a goat to nurse a baby calf whose mother has died; just because one can do it does not mean that you should when a perfectly good mama cow is around; whenever possible go for the technology that nature selected).
(above – Java hatchlings on left with an turkey egg beginning to hatch in front; the timing needs to be right for this)
(above – the baby turkey from the egg in the photo above this photo, resting its wing on a Java egg yet to hatch)
I could wax on and on about Java Chickens all day, but really would like to focus on a hatching chick’s greatest tool: The Egg Tooth. It is a small, sturdy protuberance attached to the upper mandible of a hatching bird’s (or reptile’s) beak (or bill) that helps it break through the shell. I am captivated by this practical, ancient, tool.
(above – a newly hatched Java Chick, with the “hatched-from- egg-shell” in front. Note the white tip on it’s beak. That is it’s egg tooth)
So, the Egg Tooth. In addition to being a very practical tool of evolution, I would consider it also as a kind of “a state of mind”, as well. Or, perhaps as a practical metaphor. Or an evolutionary tool in our own lives. What fortifies us enough that we are able to “break through” to the ideas/behaviors we have been incubating, so that they come to fruition? The answer(s), vary from person to person. Querying ourselves alone may help us break through to “the larger world”, to a more expansive sense of self, or to seeing something in a whole new light.
After all that hatching and breaking through you might be hungry. And for something simple and nutritious. Here is today’s recipe: Very Simple Poached Eggs
Ingredients: 2 Organic Eggs. Then: pasture raised butter (or olive oil), salt, (optional: chiltepin) for flavor.
How: You really do not need a fancy poacher to make a great poached egg. The key is in using really fresh eggs.In fact, the addition of vinegar that we so often hear about is really for eggs that are not so fresh; like the kind from the grocery store. If you have access to a neighbors hens, or a local farmers market, you can proceed as follows. Crack an egg into a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring water to a boil, reduce the heat, with a spoon swirl the water into a tiny whirlpool, and gently slip the egg into the center of the swirl. Keep water just below boiling – cook until the white is set and to your preference of yolk. Add the butter (I use pasture raised butter), salt, and (optional dried red chiltepin crushed on top) to taste. Savor the taste of that fresh egg without much fancy coverup or fanfare.
I love these atop beans, or on a fresh tortilla/bread.
Worthy of Note: There is so much to say about the joys and benefits of raising heirloom breeds; about their dispositions and superior nutritional value. I am a part of a Java Recovery Project, to increase their numbers. Many heirloom animals are endangered and if it appeals to you to steward an heirloom breed of some sort, I encourage you to visit: http://www.livestockconservancy.org. The website is a goldmine of information and you can educate yourself on the types of breeds, where they thrive, which are especially in need of breeders, as well about the nutritional needs of heritage breeds. Who knows!? You might use your metaphorical egg tooth in the service of something larger than your own life. Perhaps to be in service to the earth, (from whom both the egg tooth and we humans emerged), and consider learning about/raising heirloom breeds of some sort yourself.