Posted by: patwogan | July 7, 2012

More About the Chickens

I hated live chickens!  I loved fried chicken, baked chicken, chicken salad sandwiches, and chicken and noodles!

I hated gathering eggs!  It was a job that a young child could do, and so it was one of my chores.  In the springtime, hens want to hatch eggs.  After all, that is basically why they lay eggs.  When they have decided to hatch the eggs, they are called setting hens.  A setting hen becomes very possessive of the eggs she is trying to hatch.  Grandma had a different theory about the eggs.  She thought they should be gathered twice a day and brought into the house.  Some of the eggs were sold to the hatchery and some were eaten by our families.  

The person responsible for gathering the eggs had to reach under the “setting hen” and remove the eggs.  Now the hen did not think this was fair and tried by the only means she had to keep from having her eggs stolen.  She pecked the gatherer….me.  Chickens peck hard and often.  I hated being pecked, and consequently I hated chickens.

Another hazard of gathering eggs was snakes.  Black snakes like eggs.  I guess all snakes like eggs, but the main offender at Grandma’s was the black snake.  Now farmer’s like black snakes.  Egg gatherers hate them.  You never really knew when you reached into a nest whether you might encounter a snake.  Grandma did not like snakes getting her eggs, so she had a “darning” egg that she used to put in the nest when the snakes were especially active.  A darning egg is used to put in the toe or heel of a sock when you darn (mend) it.  Often they were onyx and egg shaped.  Grandma’s trick was to put the darning egg in the nest in the hope that the snake would think it was an egg and try to eat it.  Naturally, it wouldn’t digest and the snake would be killed.  I think Grandma thought an egg eating black snake should be eating mice or rats and not her eggs!  

I hate snakes!  I hate encountering them when I don’t expect to.  I hate being pecked by chickens.  No wonder I didn’t like the chore of gathering eggs.  

One of the things I remember about Grandma’s chickens was a time when I was very little.  My cousin, Charles, who is three years older than I, but was still a little boy, was in the chicken yard when he did something to “offend” Grandma’s big Buff Orfington rooster.  The rooster jumped on Charles’s back, began pecking him on the head, and also flogging him with its wings.  I can still see (in my mind’s eye) Grandma coming to his rescue.  She grabbed that rooster, and in one fell swoop, she wrung its neck.  We had chicken and noodles the next day!

Now hold onto your hats for this next one.  We lived about a quarter of a mile from a butcher.  Mr. Bullock was a farmer who also butchered his own cattle and also did custom butchering.  This meant that the carcasses needed to be hauled off.  So every day the Coursey Rendering Service trucks would go by Grandma’s house on their way to Mr. Bullock’s.  They drove very fast and Grandma did not like that, but there was nothing she could do about it.  Anyway, once in a while one of Grandma’s chickens would get run over by the truck.  She would hear the commotion and go out and retrieve the chicken, dress it, and cut off the bruised parts.  This was freshly killed chicken.  We ate road-kill.  Like her peers, Grandma did not like waste.

My Mom and Grandma killed and dressed chickens and sold them in town to the local grocery store and sometimes to people who wanted farm raised chickens.  Grandma also sold eggs to the local hatchery and sometimes to the same grocery store.   I remember one time when Mom was offended because a Jewish friend asked her if the chickens were kosher.  Mom asked her what constituted kosher and the friend in telling her mentioned that they had to be cleaned in s particular way.  Mom was offended thinking the lady had said her chickens weren’t cleaned properly. 





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