After relocating to the thriving metropolis in Central Texas some 30 years ago, I decided to really immerse myself into the culture. The first immersion was really just fortuitous. Having to use the windmill for water, the need to learn simple repairs led me to try to purchase the “rubbers” for my windmill, when actually I needed “leathers.” That’s an earlier blog.
Having met my closest neighbor, a lovely hard-working woman who had raised four children on her own after her husband had been accidentally killed by an electric shock. They had a dairy, so she was left to run the dairy and raise the small children. This she managed to do, and by the time I met her she was remarried to an old high school friend that had returned to the area from Dallas (a bit better off as the head of an electrical company) and made her life much more comfortable.
Neighbor lady had a relative that worked at a local college that experimented on animals to create hybrids. They had developed a hybrid chicken that matured in four weeks to be able to butcher in a relative short period of time. After they had completed their experimentation, they had these leftover chicks and she had access to them. She asked me if I wanted any.
Well, since I had become such a great little farm lady, I quickly said sure (not realizing exactly what that meant). The next morning, I found a box with 25 day old chicks on my front porch. They were making an awful lot of noise cheep, cheep, cheeping and desperate to get out of that box.
I brought them in and sat they on a table. The middle child was just toddling around and as I tried to figure what I was supposed to do next, he abruptly reached in the box and grabbed a handful, in both little chubby hands, of baby chicks. Only two were squished before I was able to pry them out of his fat little fingers, and I quickly got them to the barn, got them enclosed, and got a light on them. Adding the food and water made me think I had pretty much taken care of the baby chicks.
Well, all went well for several days, then as baby chicks tend to do, they began to grow. Now remember, these were a hybrid that had been genetically altered to mature in four weeks and ready for butcher.
Four weeks came and each hen (and they were all hens) had begun laying eggs. By this time, I had just turned them loose, and they had a chicken house for the laying and roosting. Now of course, not all hens lay every day, but out of 24 it was not uncommon to have days with 17 to 20 eggs. It began to become a bit of a problem what to do with that many eggs. Remember, this was daily. We ate eggs, the dogs, cats, and pigs ate eggs, and I began to wonder what my next step should be. This is where having an experienced neighbor is so valuable. Her question was, “Why don’t you just put some in the freezer?” After receiving instructions (before google), I went home to prepare for the butchering.
I was a city kid. They closest I had been to butchering any animal was purchasing the meat already packed in the grocery store. Occasionally, I would see some large cuts of meat being whittled down in the back of the store, but certainly not enough to get the butchering certificate.
Now, elderly neighbor suggested wringing the neck or chopping it off, followed by plucking by hand as many feathers as possible, followed by dunking now dead chicken in boiling water in order to get he remainder of the pin feathers (very small feathers that are very gross if you see them or eat them after cooking chicken). You can then freeze the entire chicken or cut it up before freezing. Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? These elderly farm people did it all the time for Sunday dinner, remember? I don’t either.
Out I go to the barn. I decided that I was incapable of wringing anything’s neck, so armed with an axe I set out to kill me some chickens. I killed a couple, but no one told me that they kept running around after they had no heads, and to say the least this really spooked me. I was convinced I was being chase, punished, or haunted by chicken spirits from millions of years past. My other thoughts were that these hybrids were some sort of bionic, nuclear, radioactive, killer chickens. Not a pleasant thought.
They finally went down, and I went about following the remainder of the instructions. I managed to sort of complete four chickens. There seemed to be a lot of leftover feathers. I was covered in wet, stinking feathers and the barnyard resembled the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. This would not work.
After traumatizing the remaining 20 hens and having 4 pitiful looking dead chickens, I decided I would just go to the store to get my chicken. It was a family tradition, but I still had a bunch of chickens, laying a bunch of eggs.
The next plan of attack was to allow the hens to set some of the eggs and hatch some babies. (Wait for it.) I was relaying my plan to the elderly neighbor when her obvious shock showed in the tone of her question, “You got a rooster out there?” “Why no,” I replied, at which point the obvious dawned on me. “Oh my gosh,” I stammered, turning beet red – no redder. “Please, don’t tell anyone that I said that, ” I pleaded. I knew what kind of idiot they would all thing I was. Remember, I was the one that asked for the rubbers for the windmill. “Well honey,” she slowly drawled, “You can let them hens set all they want, but without a rooster you won’t ever get any babies.” She probably got her chuckle for the year or lifetime out of that one.
I know she got on that party line the minute I left her house. It really was too good a story not to tell.
I pulled up to the little store in the little town several days later. I was what was referred to as a “grass widow” (divorced) in their neck of the woods, and there was always lots of speculation about what I might be up to out in the country. I saw as I put the car in park several of the old men in town, one of the old bachelors, standing on the porch. When I was fully out of the car I heard the comment I had been dreading, “Hey, Mrs. I hear you need a rooster out at your place.” I just ducked and plowed ahead. After all, I was fast becoming the entertainment in a town with not much entertainment.
One of those on the porch was the Mr.