Are you ready for a good story? A fun story? Something other than hate, racism, fear, disease, and the woes of the world? Well, I just might have one for you. If that sounds good read on.
We have been living in Hillsboro a longtime. Let’s just say it has been well over 50 years. And here in Old Orenco, we always had hens. The farm at 22950 NW Dogwood, my childhood home on 5 acres, was a virtual zoo. From horses and cows to peacocks and chinchillas and raccoons, we had them all. You could find Guinea hens, peafowl, rabbits, cats, dogs, giant goats, desert tortoises (saved him from ditch), catfish, trout, deer, and skunks, coyotes, wild dogs, beaver, muskrats, geese, ducks, banty hens, and bobcat. All entered our farm or the land and waters on it. Toss in giant crayfish, river otters, and steelhead that were in Rock Creek in those days, and you know what? It really was a Zoo. And I think I am forgetting some critters too. Oh yah, wild kids…and lots of them lived in the old town, which in those days was a burned-out potholed dog patch of fantastic people and more fantastic environs. It was fun.
We would not stay on that farm- Mom and Dad hoped for bigger things out in Scholls, but we never could replace that parcel and the old 1908 farmhouse and barns we owned. It is still there, believe it or not, although 11 other homes and a hidden park have filled in much of the land. It was magical.
It would be 30 years, almost to the day, before my boyhood would be revisited in Old Orenco. That was the year we bought a 100-year-old former drugstore, hospital, and boarding house. In fact, it was a general store and restaurant at one time as well. We eventually made it our home. We have taken on many projects through the years and recreated some of the things I experienced as a child. We did it for the kids and grandkids sake . Gardens and zip lines have reappeared while oddball projects take place in the old barn here. Relics can be found everywhere. But the goats are not allowed, and a horse would not work here. The rabbits are in the bushes here now too, and we have lots of skunks and coons. The offspring of the great horned owl who held vigil over me as I camped along Rock Creek float across the yard every night. They know me as I know them. But the farm animals are missing in this modern version of late 60’s farm life. The little town remains almost as-is, but Hillsboro decided not to and has swallowed old Orenco up.
See a 2020 360 rotation over the historic Orenco Townsite
When it came right down to it, the only option we had to enjoy a taste of farm life in the modern city was to get some hens and give it a go. After all, they were the most consistent and reliable critters we ever had. Every day most of the year, our hens laid an egg. Over the years, I bet I have handled 100,000 eggs. So with a little effort, we built a hen house out of reclaimed barn wood and purchased a mixture of pullets just before COVID hit. It took me a while to get back in the swing of things, but it all worked out in the end. With laying boxes, a warming lamp, a secured outdoor pen, and an expanded feeding area, the stage was set. The pullets lived as chicks in the shop under a heat lamp, and when they grew to sufficient size, we brought them into the hen house. A mixture of 6 girls have been raised here now, and they began laying sometime around May.
The hen house is built from windows from a 1930s house and a 1915 barn demolished for a subdivision in Orenco at Ring’s Hill. Old things make great projects and love to live again.
The kids love the fresh eggs, and the grandkids love the chickens. It has just been a win-win all the way around. There have been many monumental moments in this farm-days redux I am concocting. And what a great #COVIDbuster it was for a few months. When the first egg hit the frying pan, the yolk turned white within 2 seconds. I was transported. Then came boiled eggs and fresh egg salad. Perfectly wonderful. There have been many fun moments- naming the hens, feeding them, picking them up and talking to them, and watching them grow into fat, sassy hens from little peeps. It is rewarding, and we highly recommend it!
Now for the big moment, the really BIG moment. A few days ago, while fetching the eggs, I was forced to take a double-take. Unless there was a big goose or an ostrich in the hen house, one of the girls had to have been hurting. The biggest egg I have ever fetched was there nestled in the hay. I sat in wonder, holding it in my hand. For sure, it had to be a double yolker. We get them every couple of months. All of the eggs in this little flock are Jumbo size but this was Mega- a real spectacle. I looked around at our busy little pen, watching them do their pecking and feeding ritual. None of them looked worse for the wear, so I wrapped up the ritual and headed in with the bounty.
I put the eggs away and showed the fam- all wide-eyed in amazement. I got busy and forgot about it, but this past Saturday morning, I decided it was time to enjoy it. I took the carton out and found the most oversized jumbo we had out of 3 dozen. It was a big one. That would give perspective. The lid on the egg carton was nowhere near able to close over the goliath, and the side by side picture shows the big jumbo next to it.
Then I placed both into my open hand. I have an above-average hand size, so this photo does the big one justice a little better. This is one enormous egg for a backyard hen or any hen!
Once the pan was hot and the butter sizzling, I made my move. Two firm taps and the egg relented a perfect crack. Over the pan it went. Come on..let me see those two jumbo yolks roll out. As they slid out, I received the biggest surprise yet…in fact, in my chicken world, this one is right up there with the great horned owl fiasco (more on that another time). Plop….Plop….PLOP! Not a double but a triple yolker. I was stunned beyond belief as the pan filled while the butter and a few dashes of salt made magic of the moment.
The biggest egg I had ever seen was a rewarding and fun breakfast. But that is not where the story ends. Yesterday I researched triple yolk eggs. While a double yolk is a 1 in 1000 chance, a triple yolk is almost unheard of. The odds of a triple yolked egg is 25 million to 1. An Australian University researched the odds a few years back when a triple yolker hit their town. And in England, a few birds have achieved that feat, including this one.
— Adem Djemil (@Adem) June 7, 2014
The more I think about this, the more I realize I should have called the National Enquirer, but I don’t roll like that. I was happier just having a few moments to muse God’s creations and the fact that a triple yolk egg came to me to cut the tension and fret over a Coup orchestrated on the Capitol. I will never forget that egg and will even appreciate these hens more. The whole thing just reminded me of what farm folk already know- it is never easy, but it is never dull. If I ever forgot that out chasing windmills, I remember it now.
From Biggest Egg to Littlest Egg
We might have had the most giant egg laid in Hillsboro this year, but my good friend Jeff LeRiche posted on my Facebook tonight that he had come across an article in the 1911 Hillsboro Argus about the smallest egg ever laid in this area. Mrs. Ed. Mizen of Shady Brook (North Plains) reported a tiny, perfectly shaped egg, and it made the papers. The Argus, as you may know, is the motivation and reason we created the Hillsboro Herald. That paper was so inextricable tied to our Community’s people that it came to define and reflect the people, and the people reflected the paper. All stories were reported, and no one was left out. Even chickens laying tiny eggs.
Thanks to historian Jeff LeRiche for his submission of this story and photo from the Argus from 1911
Are you interested in giant eggs or tiny eggs or just good old regular eggs? Well, hens are allowed in the City of Hillsboro (no roosters) but make sure to check with your HOA or neighborhood rules. Having said that I say go for it! The next Giant egg just might be yours!
I mentioned the Great Horned owl of my youth, its offspring, and one that went after our chickens this year. So here is a Hillsboro Herald bonus feature. This took place in Gaston where we have a second flock of hens and two fine roosters! Enjoy folks.