A brief moment from my childhood
|Season of the Chickens|
In the spring when I was ten years old, Mom came home with a box of twenty- five chicks and surprised us kids. Dad built a coop, and said we were eventually going to have fresh chicken. At the time I did not, or could not, comprehend the fresh chicken quote.
The chicken coop was an A-frame made from old boards that were gray from the elements. Inside there was a long trough for food and enough room for all the chickens. A square opening, big enough for a chicken to pass through, was in the front of the coop and led to a lawn surrounded by chicken wire. Another larger opening with a door was also on the front of the coop. I would often let the chickens out through the door so they could walk freely around the unfenced yard, much to my parent’s objection. My excuse was the chickens needed the exercise, and it gave me the chance to more closely observe them.
The chicks were kept in the house under a heating lamp until strong enough to survive in the coop. They were so ridiculously cute that I could not leave them alone. The softness of their yellow downy feathers and the little chirps they made were too much for me to resist. I spent enough time with the chickens to see them as pets. I had no problems picking them up like they were a cat and petting their feathers. Every day I was at the coop, watching them grow and interacting as much as you can with a chicken. The end of summer came, and Dad said the chickens were ready. I did not have the courage to ask what they were ready for, already suspecting when the axe was brought out and sharpened.
In the end we had seventeen chickens out of twenty-five due to problems with raccoons and other animals getting into the coop. One chicken in particular survived an attack and managed the rest of his life with one leg. He was the only chicken that I gave a name to, Mr. Hop-a-long.
Butchering chickens is definitely not for the faint hearted. I stayed away when I saw the axe and piece of log. I had to help pluck the feathers after their heads were off and they had been dunked into the big cast iron pot of boiling water.
It was a messy project with feathers sticking everywhere, and I was not happy to help. Plucking feathers is not easy. Reminds me of plucking eyebrows; you just have to give them one good yank in the right direction. As the feathers came out I apologized to each chicken, letting them know this was not what I wanted.
It is a wonder I still eat chicken. I went without for quite awhile after that experience. It was such a mess and hassle killing and cleaning the chickens that Mom never did bring home chicks again, and I am thankful.
So why do I bring this up? I found some pictures of me as a kid and there it was, a picture of me grinning and holding a chicken in my arms like a cat, being the tomboy I was. Another picture shows me with the door to the coop open and the chickens filing out. That summer was my season of the chickens, my own learning experience in the circle of life.