Tag Archives: chicken

Chickens Don’t Cry

My grandmother had a glass egg that she used  to slip under a chicken to try to convince her to lay.  Now, I don’t know why a chicken wouldn’t or couldn’t lay an egg.  But after Mammaw ruled out sickness, parasites or the winter weather, she figured the hen needed educating.  Perhaps she didn’t know how good it felt to lay an egg.  Maybe she’d never been with a rooster before and didn’t know the pleasure derived from a sexual encounter. Maybe she just didn’t like baby chicks.  Although, she need not be worried about the last one, because more often than not, her progeny did not see the light of day.  However, this would have been a terrible conversation to have with a prospective mamma hen and not at all conducive to the egg laying process.

The glass egg was used to gently encourage the delicate pullet to “get with the program.” It usually worked.  I would gather it up each morning and slip it back in her nest  before bedtime.  After a bit, she would get used to the feel of the egg and probably with out much thought, lay one of her own.  Having done that a few times, she would then realize that she did not need the young “doodle doo” to lay eggs anyway and it might loosen her up a bit on the sex aspect.

You’ve been there right?  When you don’t feel like you have to do it.  It becomes so much more enjoyable.

The other poultry problem was the inclination of older hens to sit on an egg and lash out at anyone who tried to take it.  They could be vicious.  My grandmother’s answer to that was jail.  She built a jailhouse out of tobacco sticks and corrigated tin.  She would snatch the offender up by the feet and stash it in the jailhouse for a day or two until a lesson was learned.  It sat right outside of the hen house door so all those on the outside could cluck, peck and scratch up dust to exhibit their destain. The hen and I would be devastated.  I would sit by jail and talk to her in an encouraging voice, sharing in her humiliation, hoping to absorb some of her shame.

Chickens don’t cry, but I did.

Even though the punishment was short lived, the lingering effects took it’s toll.  The little jailbird plummeted in the pecking order. Scorned by the other hens she took on a solitary existence.  She lived on the fringes of the farm yard, eating leftovers and dropping poo only after the others had finished.

I would watch helplessly as a sweet old hen lost the last luster of her youth and ended up in hot water.  Literally.  It still brings a tear to my eye, as I blow on my spoon and wait for the stew to cool.

Borrowed from www.theconstanthunger.com

 Chicken Killer              

I killed my first living thing when I was 11 years old.  I picked it up, grabbed it’s neck and wrung it around and around until I heard a snap. Then I ripped it’s head off and flung the body on the ground.

“Good Lord!  It sounds awful when I read about it.”

I killed a chicken.  Only once. It never happened again.

Chicken Killer

I grew up in a small town in Kentucky just down the road from my grandparents farm.  My dad, a high school biology teacher, still helped Pappaw with most of the planting, tending and harvesting and in exchange we got chicken and beef and all the fruit and vegetables we wanted.

We had  “Chicken Killing Day” each year, but Mammaw was the one that usually did the deed.  I just stood and watched them flop around the yard. Then one day, I bragged to my sister that I could do it and asked my grandmother if I could try. I thought she’d say no. I would have looked like a chicken (excuse the pun, but that’s the word for it) to back out. So I did it. It wasn’t hard to do, a little scary at first because it clearly didn’t want to die, making a heck of a noisy flutter. I’d seen Mammaw do it so many times, it was over and done with before I knew it.  The unfortunate thing was being called a chicken killer for the next several weeks.  My grandmother probably killed over a thousand chickens, but I became “our little chicken killer.”  One lousy, dead chicken and I was labeled for life.  They got tired of it after a while, but my sister still brings it up from time to time.  I think she may be sorry she didn’t have the guts to do it.  She missed a life defining moment, of sorts.

Our “Chicken Killing Day” chore was to take the headless bodies and dip them in water, bubbling in a huge cast iron kettle, set over a fire behind the hollyhocks in the back of the yard.  We’d leave them in for a few seconds, just long enough to make it easier to pull their feathers out so we could take them in the house for my mom and Aunt Hazel to gut, cut up and pack in freezer bags.

That doesn’t sound so good either, but it’s what we did. It’s what happens when you have a working farm.

My Mammaw & Pappaw

My Mammaw & Pappaw

It was a small farm, raising mostly tobacco and corn.  There were five or six milk cows, fifteen to twenty chickens, two mules (for plowing where the tractor couldn’t go) a dog named Butchie and a big vegetable garden located out behind the stable.  I was there with my sisters almost every weekend, and daily during the summers from the time I was born until I was fourteen.

My dad would help Pappaw and Aunt Hazel work the tobacco fields while Mammaw, my two sisters and I would do chores around the house or play made up games in the yard.

I enjoyed most of the chores.  Feeding the chickens in the morning was fun although, sometimes frightening. They would peck at you and fly up trying to get the feed out of the pan.  Once I dropped some on the top of my foot and got a nasty peck that drew blood.  Mammaw washed it off with Lysol and water while she yelled at me for not wearing shoes, “If I told you once, I told you a thousand times, you can’t walk around chickens in those dang flip flops.”

The chickens had the run of the yard, so we were always on the lookout for chickenshit.  It was funny.  The word “shit” was a bad word.  We would have gotten a whipping if we said it, but chickenshit was different and was used on a regular basis by us all.

Aunt Hazel would say, “Make sure you check your feet for chickenshit before you come into this house.”

Lamenting the placement of poultry poo, Mammaw would exclaim, “Look at that chickenshit, right on my cement!”

I don’t think chickens have the brain capacity to be purposeful in such things, but she took it as a personal insult.  There was only a little cement around the cistern and she liked it to be clean.  She’d say, “Those girls are just being spiteful doing it there, when they got the whole dang yard to do it in.”

I guess she thought the rooster knew better. I miss chickens.  Now that raising them has become a popular urban hobby, I’m thinking I may take on a few.  I just hope they don’t recognize a chicken killer when they see one.