Ophelia is dead.

Ophelia was my chicken, a gorgeous Barred Cochin, with feathered feet and a habit of humming to herself. I wrote about Ophelia on her first birthday; you can read that column here.

Last Monday there was an email waiting for me when I sat down at my iMac to begin the day’s work. It seems a critter–most likely a fox–got into the chicken coop where she lived with seven other hens. Ophelia and a Buff Orpington I had named Gilda, in honor of Rita Hayworth in the movie “Gilda,” were killed.

Although Barred Cochins are considered the chicken-du-jour when it comes to beauty–they are extremely popular in pampered urban flocks, especially on the East Coast–they are not easy to find. Western Farm Center has them occasionally, I’ve been told, usually when a local rancher brings in chicks.

Ophelia at four days, just after she all but leapt into my hand

Ophelia came to me via Ranch Hag Hens, which was one of the best places in all of Sonoma County for both chickens and eggs until it closed last year when owner Dawn Russell and her family moved to a small California town near the Oregon border. I have found no other sources.

Barred Cochins produce beautiful and delicious eggs. They are not as elongated as eggs from other chickens and are a deep mocha brown, like rich coffee with a splash of real cream.

Ophelia's First Eggs

When my friend Rosemary, who tends the flock three days a week, brought me some of Ophelia’s first eggs, I scrambled them in good butter and savored them slowly as I thought of what has always seemed like a miracle to me: Beautiful little packages of protein that happy hens produce day in and day out for years. If you know only supermarket eggs, you will likely wonder what the big deal is. Supermarket eggs, almost all of which come from overworked hens who live in cages in huge barns that are lighted 24-hours a day, are bland and insipid unless disguised with other ingredients. Eggs from well-fed happy chickens are both delicious and deeply satisfying. If you’d like to enjoy better quality eggs, buy them from small vendors at farmers markets or keep your eyes open as you travel backroads. In an upcoming post, I’ll feature a number of backroad options.

Ophelia's first eggs, scrambled

Ophelia's first eggs: Delicious!

Here are some of my favorite egg recipes from the archives of Seasonal Pantry:

Poached Eggs on Toast, with instructions on how to poach eggs, perfectly.

Spinach & Cheddar Omelet It’s not just for breakfast

Soft-Cooked Eggs with Spring Greens, Dry Jack & Creamy Vinaigrette Any greens will work in this lovely dish

Soft-Cooked Eggs with Celery Root, Dungeness Crab & Creamy Vinaigrette Perfect on a leisurely winter’s morning

French Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Asparagus, Leeks & Dungeness Crab Instead of asparagus, use your favorite winter greens

Sicilian Frittata

Artichokes with Poached Eggs & Hollandaise