December 4, 2011

Speaking of Chickens

As long as we're on the subject of chickens, I thought I'd share another chicken story with you. This one involves living poultry, as opposed to the metal version. (it's also a re-post from 2007.)

When I was 3 my brother Jimmy, my parents, and I went on a vacation. At some point we made a stop at a chicken farm. (Don't ask me why.) Anyway, because of my small stature I couldn't see where we were when my dad stopped the van. (Yes, there were vans back in the dark ages.) When my dad opened the van door I froze, petrified.
"Daddy? Are those dangerous chickens?!"
While those chickens proved to be docile and kind, I later in life met some that were not.

From the dictionary: Bantam. Any of numerous small domestic fowl that are often miniatures of members of the standard breeds.

And from a website regarding Bantam Chickens as pets:
Chickens make rewarding pets - I've never felt so much like Snow White as when sitting on a stool with a chicken on each knee, each shoulder and one resting comfortably on top of my head. The chickens on my shoulders rubbed their heads around on my neck, tasted my glasses gently and played with my earlobes. The chickens on my knees wiggled as I petted them and played with my ring. The chicken on top of my head just made me a little nervous. I could sit in the sun and watch those hand raised chickens scratch, bath and eat for hours.

When our 2 oldest sons were quite young they were given a tiny incubator as a gift. We did hatch 2 quail successfully and released them into the wild when they were old enough to fend for themselves.
Years later, when our oldest son was 13 or so, he decided he wanted to hatch another quail egg. After a long search, we found a farmer who had quail eggs for sale. So, we all piled into the van and drove over to this guy's house to see if he would be willing to sell 1 (Please note I said 1. ONE) egg to the kids so they could use their incubator again. The man was incredibly nice, and very persuasive. After a brief tour of his farm he somehow managed to convince us that if watching 1 quail egg hatch was exciting, imagine how breathtaking watching 27 Bantam chicken eggs would be!
"Well, we don't have room for 27 eggs in our little incubator."
"Oh! That don't matter. Look! I have a large, portable incubator you can use! Just take it home and when you're done using it, bring it back. And really, you don't have to worry. I don't think all 27 eggs will hatch. I reckon only about 9 will actually be fertilized."
Deciding it would be futile to argue any further with this kind man, we caved and took the eggs and incubator home.
I imagine by now you can guess what happened, and you're right. All 27 eggs decided to hatch.
It wasn't long before we had 27 tiny chicks peeping at all hours of the day and night, begging for food. And the box they resided in was in our son's bedroom! After about 2 days of that racket my husband and the boys went out and built a makeshift chicken coop behind the garage. I had visions of one of us heading out to gather eggs and then all of us sitting down to a delicious scrambled egg breakfast every morning. There were 2 problems with this scenario. One, do you have any idea how tiny Bantam Chicken eggs are? It would take about 5 per person to equal 2 regular chicken eggs. The other problem was, it seems that most of our chickens were roosters.
Not only that, but they were mean, ferocious, dangerous roosters! They were so mean that after a couple months they'd managed to kill about half their brothers and sisters in bloody chicken wars. Talk about sibling rivalry...
Anyway, winter came and went and by the following spring we were down to 15 chickens-all of them roosters and all of them mean. Every time the boys went out to play they were chased and attacked by those nasty little birds.
It wasn't just their beaks the boys had to look out for; the spurs on the chicken legs proved to be more dangerous than their bills. (Can you call a chicken beak a bill?) Every time the boys went outside to play or feed the chickens they'd come in with tears in their eyes and bloody scratches on their legs.
I finally gave the boys my permission to kill the chickens. I just didn't want to know how they did it. Every once in awhile I'd hear a whoop from outside and I knew the boys were one step closer to being free of fear and pain.
However, there was one afternoon James came in and his legs were a mess. Blood trickled down his calves and tears were streaming down his cheeks. I was furious! I'd had enough of those chickens!
I marched down the hall, grabbed a 22 and a bunch of bullets and went outside. In my fury I managed to shoot and kill all but one sneaky little rooster. The meanest one. He was mean, but he wasn't brave; he perched his little self high in a tree where he knew we couldn't get at him. I wasn't about to go shooting a gun into the trees, so we left him up there. That evening when my husband got home the boys told him about the last remaining bad guy nobody could get.
That was all Dad needed to hear. He put his chaps on, pulled a bandanna down over his mouth, tipped his Stetson down low over his eyes and sauntered out to the barn. I mean garage. There in the corner was his weapon of choice. An antique weed whacker that looked more like a dilapidated machete than something to garden with. We all stood around the yard, waiting...finally the chicken came down out of the tree. After all, it was getting dark and it was time to be fed. We watched breathlessly as my husband casually walked over to the beast, the weed whacker hidden behind his legs. Then, with a stroke Mike's golfing dad would be proud of, Mike swished the weapon through the air and thwack. A hole in one! The boys yelled and cheered. I swooned at my hero's feet. Mike picked me up, blew the smoke off the barrel of his weed whacker and strolled back to the house. He sat down at the table and slammed his fist down.
"Give me a shot of whiskey, Woman!"

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