A chicken is what supplies people with eggs. Not only do my neighbors and I benefit from this rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, many people around the world do as well. Families that I met on the outskirts of Maun, Botswana, had goats, chickens, and the occasional cow. These chickens supply the town with much-needed nutrients that sometimes can be hard to come by in third-world countries. Beta-carotene and vitamin A join the set of nutrients found in chicken eggs. Every egg is not just an integral part of baking, or a simple breakfast. Each egg is a product of chicken well-being and a miracle of evolution that has resulted in our domestic chicken. The nutrients that eggs provide for the world represent one of the densest sources of nutrition that can be found in one protected package.
A chicken is what greets me in the morning when it is my turn to do the neighborhood chicken chores. Seventeen beaked faces and excited eyes look at me in anticipation. Do they enjoy my attention, or do they want food? I would be more fond of the former, but my experience makes me believe in the latter. As I open the door to the coop, the attempt to rush and fit multiple bodies through a door built for only one. Some scamper out, others trip out, and some make it skillfully to gain the lead on the race to breakfast. They reach the chicken yard and start scraping around with their feet to find what grubs have shown up during the night and early morning. Grubs are more exciting than chicken pellets. They look at the food I have brought for them with momentary disinterest. They can eat the pellets later, while grubs are fresh for only so long. Their day is open for foraging, socializing, and of course, egg laying.
The agreement we have is simple. We provide them with a home, and they provide us with eggs. But the agreement is more than that to me. With such a small flock, we can be their friends and know each of them. We can be their guardians. We are their keepers, and they keep us healthy in return with their eggs and their company.