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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Welcome to the season of the chicken

The Farmer has been away on a business trip this week so I’m in charge of the chickens. I don’t like chickens. You reach down into their fluffy puddle of bodies to extract the feeding trough that they are standing in, and they peck your hands. They scream excitedly when I step into the pen and rush over to peck at my ankles. I forgot socks and couldn’t pull rubber boots on over my bare feet so I just had my rubber sandals on. Ankles were exposed and they got sufficiently pecked.
No, it doesn’t hurt when they peck me. It’s just rather uncomfortable. The Farmer thinks I’m a wimp but really. Standing in a chicken-poop dampened pile of hay, getting swarmed by mosquitoes and pecked by tiny yellow birds is not my idea of fun. Not to mention what it does to my hair. I give up trying to smooth out my frizzy hair. I will spend the rest of the summer with an unholy halo of fuzz for a hairstyle.
Now the turkeys, on the other hand, are so docile and polite it’s actually quite pleasant to tend to them. I swear one of them cooed a thank you when I spread fresh straw over their soggy pen floor. Before I could even get the straw off the end of my pitchfork they were on it, settling in and preening their feathers. They need the dry straw to keep their downy feathers nice and dry. Otherwise they look like they have been dumped in a water bucket and hung upside down to dry.
I watched as they fussed and claimed nests in the new pile of straw. “Oh, this is nice. Come feel this, Clara. Don’t shove. This is my spot. Oh it feels nice. Just wiggle on down into that straw and see how good it feels on your feathers. There. Isn’t this lovely?” They cooed and softly chuckled to each other in a little feathery chorus.
I like to do nice things for the turkeys. They’re so appreciative. Even when I’m filling their feeders, they just come and stand beside me and make soft, polite comments. Croo. Brrrrr. Gobble.
The chickens are equally thrilled when they get new bedding but until they get a bit bigger and their heat lamps are removed I have to be really careful about that. Don’t want to hit the heat lamp with a piece of straw or it’ll be a hot time in the old barn tonight.
I can say one nice thing about the chickens, though. I suspect they might be slightly more intelligent than the turkeys. When the automatic water troughs failed last year one chicken, either self-appointed or elected we don’t know, went out as a sentry into the dark night. From the back porch where we were socializing and digesting our Sunday dinner, we could hear one clear, frantic chirp-song louder than the others. Amanda happened to be out in the barnyard investigating, and followed the sound to the chicken, who then led her to the dry water troughs.
I have been spending a bit of time watching How to Hypnotize your Chicken on YouTube. The problem is I don’t think it works with meat birds, who tend to be more aggressive than laying hens or show birds. Maybe I will try it on my turkeys when they are a bit bigger. They are, after all, the more trusting and gullible of the birds.
I can see it now. Market Day arrives, the Farmer goes to the barn to wrestle all the flapping, kicking and thrashing 30-lb turkeys into cages and finds them neatly lined up on the straw, sound asleep. The gentle way to go. Maybe I will start a trend. Like freezing your fresh lobsters before you boil them. Hypnotize your poultry before they go to the processing plant. Happy animals are delicious animals. I usually tell them they are going on vacation, in soothing, comforting tones, and pet their feathers through the cages until they calm down. Hypnosis might be even better. Not sure what the people at the processing plant are going to think, though.

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