Tag Archives: poultry

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.

1542. Things are not what they seem

From the outside it looked just like an ordinary egg. It had been laid by an ordinary chicken in an ordinary farmyard. The mother hen (apparently) was an ordinary Rhode Island Red. The father (apparently) was a rather handsome silver-laced Wyandotte.

Twelve year old Gilbert knew his breeds of chickens. He’d looked after the chickens for his mother and father almost since he was a toddler. These days he kept just the right balance between it being a hobby and it supplying the house with not too many and not too few eggs. Gilbert liked to have different breeds of chickens, and he’d cross one breed with another to see what sort of combination emerged from the egg. But… such an interesting genetic mix-up was exactly what the aliens were looking for. They had been watching the farmhouse for a month or so. They knew the way young Gilbert managed his chickens.

One night, when the next day they knew Gilbert was going to put a clutch of eggs under a broody hen, the aliens injected one of the eggs with very specific genetic material. This would change the history of the world. In fact, this would end the history of the world.

Before school the next morning, Gilbert took the eggs he had been saving that were laid by the Rhode Island Red hen in liaison with the silver-laced Wyandotte rooster. He selected twelve eggs. Of the fourteen eggs that Gilbert had collected only two remained. Fourteen eggs were too many for the broody hen to keep warm. Twelve was just right. Of the two unchosen eggs, one contained the alien genetic material. The watching aliens were distraught.

Then Gilbert did something he always did: at the last minute he swapped the eggs. “This,” he thought, as he replaced one of the dozen eggs with the rejected alien egg, “will produce a different chicken from the one I first selected!”

Gilbert always did that. It was if he was playing God. Except, in this case he was.

1056. Cock-a-doodle-do

Everyone said that Claude’s rooster was a prize bird.

“I don’t know what you did to that rooster,” said Farmer Jack, “but for a nine year old boy to raise a rooster like that is fantastic.”

“You should enter the rooster in the poultry competition at the upcoming Farm Show Day,” suggested Mabel. (Mabel was a notable ornithologist.)

So Claude did. You wouldn’t believe the preparation that went into getting the rooster ready! He had everything done to him that chickens normally don’t get done: his legs were washed and oiled; each feather was individually preened; even his magnificent tail had a surreptitious whish of hair spray.

Farm Show Day arrived! All were agog at nine year old Claude’s rooster. Cock-a-doodle-do! Cock-a-doodle-do! The rooster was something to crow about.

Anyway, like most things in life, it didn’t get anywhere, so Claude brought the thing home. Eventually, like most domestic birds, they had it for dinner.

834. Turtle Dove

834chicken

Bernardine’s late husband had kept chickens. Nine in all. His favourite one was white with three little black feathers in its tail. He called it Turtle Dove.

Bernardine’s late husband’s flock of nine produced eight eggs daily. Which one wasn’t laying was anyone’s guess. He dreaded to think it might be Turtle Dove.

The thing was, now that her husband had passed on, Bernardine simply did not need eight eggs a day. She decided one egg a day was enough. There are some things in life that have to be done. Bernardine took the bull by the horns. She bit the bullet. One chicken killed a day was the answer. She would chop its head off, pluck it, and throw it into the freezer.

How Bernardine hated the fall of her tomahawk. The chicken’s neck was laid on the block and down came the sharp tomahawk, severing the neck. What if she missed?

The first day passed. One chicken was safely in the freezer. The next day, from the eight remaining hens, she gathered seven eggs.

After the second day she gathered six eggs. After the third day she gathered five. Down went the number of chickens until there were two remaining hens. Bernardine was getting one egg a day. One of the remaining chickens was Turtle Dove.

Bernardine chopped the head off the second to last chicken. The next day she got one egg! From Turtle Dove! What a dear chicken! Oh, but it must be lonely. So lonely.

These days, Bernadine has a flock of eleven, including Turtle Dove. A chicken needs company. Bernardine gathers ten eggs a day.