Solar Eggs, Pagan Chickens
Like clockwork, we have our first egg of the season. The chickens slow down egg laying in October and completely stop by early November. Each year, the first egg comes the last week of January or the first week of February. After a few spotty weeks, the whole flock will be laying eggs regularly by the end of February.
Elliot Coleman has popularized among gardeners and growers the designation of the season from November to the end of January “the Persephone Period”. By the way, who’s the real victim in the Persephone myth? Not Persephone. Her husband is a selfish lout, but she gets a cushy job as Queen of the Underworld; plus she only has to work a few months each year. The real victim is Eubuleus, the farmer who’s pigs are all sucked down to Hades when Persephone gets pulled under. Who stands up for the pig farmer? Pig farmers have always been the Rodney Dangerfield of the social order.
The Greeks weren’t all agreed upon the calendar dates for these events. We find an unrelated but seasonally similar calendar among the pagans of Britain, Ireland, and Gaul. The 1st of November is Samhain, the beginning of the long darkness, the end of the harvest, and the day for the big sugar crash and/or hangover after Halloween. The 1st of February is Imbolc, corresponding with the beginning of lambing and calving season and the first signs of tree bud swelling. But these since these solar holidays also correspond so precisely with our egg laying season, we’d like to advance the theory that chickens are Druids.
Winter still has a strong grip here with overnight temperatures below zero and snow in the forecast. So having the chickens notice the imperceptibly incrementing daylight and start laying eggs again, that’s a big deal. Imbolc is like Chicken Soup for the Farmer’s Soul. It might also be Chicken Soup for the Chicken’s Soul (yes, they would eat chicken soup; they are remorseless).