An Ode to Agnes

When we bought our farm in 2016, we acquired a tiny coop with three chickens in the deal. We had always wanted chickens one day, so we were thrilled to instantly become chicken keepers when we became homeowners. Our three original chickens were a Buff Orpington named Daisy, a Rhode Island Red named Rhonda, and a crotchety Ameraucana named Agnes. We estimated that the three hens were at least a year old because they were already laying eggs when we met them. Those three original girls ignited our love for chickens, and the following spring we raised twenty more chicks and created the first of what would become many coop expansions. And we’ve never looked back.

We lost both Daisy and Rhonda to natural causes within our first three years at the farm, which left old Agnes as the matriarch and oldest member of our flock. Within the past few years, Agnes’ egg production began to slow down progressing to only a few eggs per year. Interestingly enough, her sporadic egg laying always lined up with major weather changes – hurricanes, polar vortexes, severe heat waves, daylight savings, random snow storms, you name it. If we were in the midst of inclement weather, old Aggie would graciously provide us with one of her oblong light green eggs. Because of her tendency to lay eggs in the most inopportune weather, Agnes was fondly known as our resident farm meteorologist. 

When Agnes wasn’t reporting on the weather, she could be found bossing around the rest of the flock, silently judging us while we did chores, flirting with Doodle, or sitting in the nesting boxes singing an egg song even though she seldom laid an egg. Even as Agnes started to age, she was always one of the first chickens to run over as soon as she heard the crinkling of the Grubblies bag. But don’t let us fool you, despite her love of treats, she would never eat any out of our hands or even get relatively close enough to do so. We always joked that Agnes hated humans more than anything because she was by far our most antisocial chicken. She was nearly impossible to catch and she despised being held or carried around. I still managed to catch her a handful of times throughout the years for some good old chicken selfies, but it was a difficult task that often led to both of us being out of breath. It is also worth mentioning that Agnes had the most fabulous beard and face poofs out of all of the hens in the flock, and she knew it. Mix that righteous beard with a permanent resting beak face and you had one unstoppable old hen. 

Recently, we noticed that Agnes was starting to slow down quite a bit. She was staying closer to the coop while free ranging, she was slower to show up for Grubblies, and she spent more time resting in the shade than foraging in the yard. We knew that Agnes wouldn’t live forever, especially since she was going on her seventh year and since she had outlived her two sisters for so long. Throughout the past week, we could tell that the end was near. Aggie’s comb was pale, her tail feathers had a slight droop, and she willingly let us pick her up. We gave her snuggles and pets and she even rested her little beak on my shoulder. She got her own private Grubblies feasts away from the rest of the flock, and we made sure to let the chickens out to free range every day so that she could live out her last few days in the best way possible. After only a few days, we found Aggie in the coop looking bleak. We picked her up, gave her pets, and she passed away peacefully.

Agnes was buried on the back woods line amidst the perennial wildflowers where her body will fertilize the soil and help the flowers grow. We will spend a little extra time thinking of her each year as the wild flowers bloom. Although losing Agnes was saddening, we are happy to know that she lived a nice long chicken life free ranging on our farm. She was such an interesting character, and we have no doubt that we will be telling stories of her meteorological ways for many years to come. Here’s to all of the oddball chickens who unexpectedly steal our hearts, they are truly a special gift.

To memorialize old Aggie, here are some posts about her from our old Instagram account for you all to enjoy:    

We got quite the surprise yesterday… a big green egg!!! Agnes, our old lady human-hating Ameraucana is the only chicken in our flock that lays green eggs and she hasn’t laid us an egg since last February – 11 months people! And she chooses yesterday, easily the coldest day she has ever endured in her little chicken life (a low of -2 degrees in NC!), to lay an egg. Maybe our little cold hearted hen feels right at home in this weather after all. 

Old Agnes is highly unimpressed with my selfie taking abilities, along with everything else we do around here. What you can’t tell by looking at this picture is that we were both out of breath from me chasing her around for about 10 minutes trying to catch her. She is grumpy, always judging, and despises humans, but we love her anyway. 

The next few days will be our last days of collecting only brown eggs in the laying boxes (yes that means Agnes has completely stopped laying for those of you wondering). On Monday evening, we will be picking up our five new leghorn girls who will lay white eggs! Don’t get us wrong, we love our beautiful brown eggs, but we are excited to finally add some color variety back into our egg basket! 

This egg that I’m holding is not just your average oblong green egg… it is an elusive Agnes egg that might as well be made of gold! Agnes is our crotchety old Ameraucana hen that we inherited when we bought our farm three years ago. She has never been a very reliable layer, and she took virtually the whole year of 2017 off. She laid her first egg in almost a year on the day of a huge snow storm this past January, and she continued to sporadically lay throughout the spring. We ended up buying a little six egg incubator in May so that we could hatch some Agnes eggs, and that mean little hen laid her last egg on the day we brought the incubator home. Seriously. In classic cold-hearted Agnes fashion, she laid her first egg since the spring during the snow storm last weekend, and she has been laying an egg every few days since. Because there is no telling how long she will actually continue to lay eggs, I have been psychotically checking the nesting boxes and collecting her eggs to hopefully incubate and hatch. We only have two eggs so far because her very first one was too dirty, but we are hoping we will have a few more by the end of the week. Although Agnes despises humans with a passion, she is a beautiful healthy hen who produces pretty green eggs, and I’ve been dying to hatch some of her eggs and raise some baby Aggies. I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high because old Aggie is sure to thwart our plans if she has any inkling of what we are up to, but we may be embarking on our first attempt at incubating eggs sooner than we thought!

Agnes abstains from laying eggs for at least 90% of the year, but the mean old bird always starts laying eggs every time we have inclement weather. Dangerous heat wave? Aggie lays an egg. Record freeze and snow storm? Aggie lays an egg. Impending category 3 hurricane? You guessed it… out pops a light green oblong shaped egg. She has graciously gifted us with three eggs since the hurricane, so we decided to separate them from the rest of the eggs in hopes that she lays a few more. After all, we still haven’t tried out our little incubator that we bought last year. 

Our resident meteorologist Agnes decided to show up during the winter solstice yesterday and leave us one of her rare, light green oblong eggs. Not surprisingly, we’ve had our first real hard frosts the past few mornings, so Agnes is either letting us know that the weather sucks or that the days are going to get longer. Probably the first option. If you’re unfamiliar with old Agnes, she is our flock matriarch who only lays eggs when the weather conditions are sub-optimal: the hottest days, the coldest days, and hurricanes are always safe bets. Chickens are weird. 

Our resident meteorologist showed up today to let us know that we got our first hard frost this morning. Thanks Agnes, we got the memo. #guesswhosback  

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