Tag Archives: hens

2013. Don’t count your chickens

Maree was trying to instil into nine-year old Vincent a sense of the value of money. He must learn to work and save and spend. Since they lived on a small life-style block Maree came up with an idea based on their living conditions: if Vincent fed and looked after their poultry she would buy the eggs off him. It was quite simple: Maree and Vincent’s father would continue to buy the feed for the poultry, but the rest was over to Vincent. She would pay him thirty cents an egg. There were only three hens, but with careful saving money over a reasonably short space of time things could build up into a handy little nest egg.

Three eggs a day! Not quite a dollar a day! Almost seven dollars a week! Roughly 27 dollars a month!

For two months Vincent acted as a faithful chicken farmer.

“Have you spent anything of your savings yet?” asked proud Maree.

“Nothing yet,” said Vincent. But he had learnt and done a few things. He had gone to a local poultry farm and they had given him an old rooster.

“Is that crowing I hear coming from the hen house?” asked Maree.

“When there’s no rooster,” said Vincent knowledgeably, “sometimes a hen will start crowing like a rooster.”

After several weeks Vincent started going to the grocery store and buying a carton of eggs. He would sell his mother three eggs a day. In the meantime his three broody hens were sitting on a dozen eggs each!

When his money ran out, Vincent announced that his hens were moulting and not producing eggs, so Maree began to buy eggs from the shop.

Within a few months there were more than thirty hens and roosters scampering around the life-style block.

“What’s all this chicken food I’m having to buy?” asked Vincent’s father.

Within a few weeks more Vincent was able to sell his mother a dozen eggs a day. Not that she needed that many eggs, but she passed some to her sister and some to her mother. Now and again Vincent would get a bonus – five dollars for a freshly killed and plucked rooster.

“Well,” said Vincent’s father to Maree, “I think your little money education plan worked. From now on he can buy his own chicken feed.”

By the age of eleven, Vincent was selling fresh eggs to fifteen different households.

1750. Oh rats!

Every fifty stories or so I deviate into the quagmire of narcissism and tell a story based loosely upon the truth.

Years ago, when I was in my teens and at boarding school, something happened that didn’t exactly change my life but it left a lasting impression. The boarding school was next door to a large poultry farm. There were gigantic sheds with row upon row of caged battery hens. There must have been several thousand hens in cages. A hen would lay its egg and it would roll down gently in front of the cage to be collected. There were automatic feeders, and polythene pipes everywhere to bring water automatically to each cage. (These days, you’ll be glad to know, battery hens are mainly a thing of the past).

At night the place was crawling with hundreds of rats.

In the middle of the night I would sneak out of the school dormitory and taking a machete, a torch (flash light), and the school’s little fox terrier (called Elsie), I would go to the poultry sheds. By covering the torch with red cellophane I could see all the rats but they couldn’t see me, for (apparently) rats can’t see red. Anyway, in the red light they took no notice of me.

I would go along the battery cages and flick each rat into the air with the machete, and Elsie would snap the rat dead in mid-flight. That way I’d get dozens of rats each night. It was kind of fun.

Then one day the Headmaster made an announcement: Someone has been going into the fowl-houses at night and killing rats. It is not our property and the farmer has requested that we don’t do it.

Well, it didn’t stop me did it? The following night I went down to the sheds as usual and began decimating the rat population. And then quite suddenly and accidentally my machete cut open a polythene water pipe. Water sprayed everywhere all over the hens in cages. It was as if the fire brigade had arrived to douche a conflagration. And I couldn’t find where to turn the main water supply off. It was two o’clock in the morning!

There was only one thing for it: I had to go and wake the farmer and get him to turn the water off. I did that and he was none too happy.

Two days’ later I was called into the Headmaster’s office. The farmer was there. I got a good telling off. I just about wet my pants. And then one of them guffawed, and they admitted it was the funniest thing that had happened in a long time.

That’s when I learned that not everyone on this planet is a rat.

1703. Battery hens

Every time Cassandra used an egg when cooking she thanked the hen. She didn’t know the hen personally of course, these were eggs bought at a shop, but in her heart she thanked the hen that had gone to all the trouble of laying it.

It was possible that this hen was locked in a cage, a battery hen, with no chance to wander freely and scratch about at will with the cavorting cockerel.

Cassandra could have bought eggs where the carton stated: CAGE-FREE EGGS or FREE-RANGE EGGS. But she thought, what about the caged chickens locked forever living in a hell-hole to produce for her, Cassandra, the beauty and satisfaction of an egg? It was her way of saying thank you. Thank you Mother Hen for all your sacrifice, for all your effort. How sad for you to live a battered battery life with no hope, no love, no consolation. It was almost as if those who bought FREE-RANGE EGGS didn’t care about the plight of those poor chickens locked away.

It was the same for Cassandra when she wanted to roast a chicken. She always purchased the ones that did NOT say FREE-RANGE. It was her way of showing she cared.