My grandmother kept chickens as far back as I can remember. She’s the source of 90% of my chicken knowledge and 100% of my love for them. There are a number of “chicken stories” that I recall from my childhood, and I thought it would be fun to put a few of them down in writing, for posterity.
The first is the story of some adult hens that my grandmother somehow came to acquire (I’m not entirely sure how or why). Perhaps they were given to her, or maybe she saw the conditions they were living in and offered to buy them. I don’t recall and neither does she, and really it’s not that important.
We arrived at the farm, where the chickens resided in a long chicken coop. There was no run for them, they lived only inside. As we were collecting them, my grandmother noticed that there was something wrong with their feet! The end of each toe was a round ball, like a small marble. Upon investigation, we discovered that these round balls were actually a build up of poop and bedding. Their feet looked like alien feet. As we loaded them into boxes, we did our best to squish the poo-balls from their toes.
Once we got them home, we unloaded them into the coop, separate from the rest of the flock so that they could settle in and we could evaluate them. The rest of the toes were cleaned and we fed and watered them.
The following morning, we went out and opened the door to the run. The chickens seemed afraid of it. None would go out. We attempted to chase them out, but they flew in every direction, except out! So, we decided to catch them, one at a time, and shove them out the door. It was a bit chaotic, but there couldn’t have been more than 20 of them, although they were large. I think they were white leghorns. We got them all out, and then went about the rest of our chores. They seemed confused about the outside, and mostly wandered around looking highly offended.
That evening, as darkness was falling over the farm, we went out to lock up all the birds. Everyone had gone into their respective coops. Everyone that is, except the leghorns. They were just milling about in the run. Some of them had roosted. We attempted to chase them in. Again, they would flee in any direction, except into the coop.
So, we had to catch them again and stuff them into the chicken house. One at a time, despite the squawking and struggling and mad flapping. What a chore that was! We got them all in and shut the sliding door. Goodness, we hoped they got the hint!
The following morning, we opened the door to the outside and waited expectantly. Nope, they wanted nothing to do with it, again. We tried gently encouraging them towards the door, but that only served to upset them. So, yet another chicken rodeo was in order. They were unceremoniously caught and put out, one by one.
This routine of putting them out and in lasted for quite a few days. I felt sorry for the birds, but I’m sure grandma was ready to just put them all in the stew pot!
Then one morning, we went and opened the door, and one brave chicken made her way outside. Then another. And another. They all went out on their own. What a feeling of victory! When it was time to lock them up at night, only a bit of herding them towards the door was required, and they all ended up in the coop.
So it was that we taught the alien-toe chickens how to actually be chickens 🙂