Monday, October 15, 2007

Not the Colonel’s Chicken

By C.L. Beck
© 2007

Several years ago, my husband, Russ, and I had an interesting experience. It was so interesting that it sticks out in my mind like it was just … well … several years ago.
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“You should have been at the post office today,” I said to Russ.

“Why’s that?”

“One of the boxes of mail-order chicks broke open and yellow babies were peeping and running all over the place.” I paused. “What would you think about raising poultry?”

Russ looked dubious. Who can say why? It’s not like my schemes ever backfired or anything.

“We don’t know how,” he said.

“I’ll find a chicken manual,” I replied. “If an old guy like Colonel Sanders can handle them, so can we.”

“Where would we put them?” Russ asked.

“We’d keep them on the porch in a box under a heat lamp. Then when the weather warms, we’ll put them in that old coop in the back.” I had an answer for every objection.

The next day we ordered fifty Rhode Island Reds. And became chicken farmers. Only things didn’t go quite as planned.

When the chicks came in, we brought them home and opened their box. “Gee, they sound a lot louder in here than I expected,” I said to Russ, as he put pillows over both ears to block the noise.

Then the cat showed up. The birds fled the box and scattered to the four corners of the porch. The cat thought it was great fun. I thought it was a minor setback. Russ thought it was an omen.

The chicks ate and ate and grew into …well … big chickens. There they were, 50 birds nesting and roosting in our screened porch. And squawking at the break of day. Every day.

Russ moved them to the hen house.

One morning while cleaning up after breakfast, I realized I’d fixed too much cereal. “What can we do with cold, left-over oatmeal?” I asked my son, Davey.

He replied, “Eat it for lunch.” Obviously, a three-year-old is clueless about what constitutes a good meal.

I scratched my head. “Maybe we can feed it to the chickens.”

Davey nodded in agreement. That’s what I love about toddlers—they’ll agree with anything.

I consulted my chicken manual. Everything seemed to indicate it was fine. We marched to the coop, pot and spoon in hand, and ladled the lumpy oatmeal into the feeder. The hens gathered and clucked their excitement at something new.

No sooner was I back in the house when I heard Davey yell, “Mommy, Daddy, something’s wrong with the chickens!”

Oh no. Had one of the cats gotten them?

We raced to the hen house. The birds milled about, their heads low to the ground, none of them clucking. “They must be sick,” I said to Russ, watching the poor things stagger around and fall over.

Russ looked puzzled. “They’ve got a big wad of something on their beaks.”

“A big wad of something? That’s weird.” I shook my head and tried to think of all the chicken diseases I’d read about that might fit the description.

“It looks like cooked oatmeal,” Russ said. “Where would they get that?” He turned to me with his, “What have you tried now?” look.

“It’s perfectly logical,” I said. “Oatmeal is made from oats. Oats are a grain. Chickens eat grain. It said so in my manual.”

“Yes, but not cooked and in a big, sticky lump,” Russ said.

We watched a few minutes more. The chickens kept rubbing their beaks, trying to get off the goopy cereal. The more they rubbed, the more dirt they picked up in their wads of oatmeal. Pretty soon, some of them had lumps the size of golf balls surrounding their beaks, throwing the poor birds off balance and onto the ground.

“You know what you have to do,” Russ said, opening the gate to the birds’ fenced area and ushering me inside.

“What?” I asked.

“Give 50 chickens a bath.”

Well, all I had to say was those chickens had better taste pretty good once they were on the table. I was sure the Colonel had never gone to this much trouble.

14 comments:

Ronda Gibb Hinrichsen said...

Chicken and oatmeal. Hmm. One of those "recipes" you'll never use again? Also, thanks for letting us know what not to do. I'm not so sure I wouldn't have tried the same thing under similar circumstances.

Marsha Ward said...

Ha ha ha! This brings back memories of my chicken-raising days. I think one of my sons was so scarred by plucking chickens that he doesn't eat the bird to this day.

Joe said...

Wow--that takes me back to hatching eggs one summer when I lived in Washington. I built an incubator from scratch, ordered the eggs from a local feed store, and hatched them. It was fun, Chickens running around everywhere...Until my dad (who was raised on a farm) told me we could either cook them or get rid of them. We gave them to our local veterinarian, who had a hobby farm, but for a long time after that I couldn't eat chicken because of the idea of eating my babies :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

Oh, that is so funny!

Rachelle said...

I'll never look at oatmeal the same again! Cute story. We raised 200 chickens one summer, what an experience.

Keith Fisher said...

Very funny but not for the chickens. thanks for the laugh

Marsha Ward said...

C.L., I tagged you for the literary males game. Here's the link so you'll know the score:

The Ink Ladies

C. L. Beck said...

Ronda,
Ha, I love your comment. Yes, definitely one of those recipes I'll never use again. Oatmeal and chicken do not mix. :)

C. L. Beck said...

Marsha,
So, you're a chicken plucker, too, huh? I loved raising 'em, but I hated sending them into the next life. Guess that's why I had such a short career as a chicken farmer. Well, it's one of the many reasons ... oatmeal and hot dogs being the others.

Thanks for tagging me for the "Kiss a Virtual Hunk" game. Ha! That's going to be fun.

C. L. Beck said...

Joe,
You raised chickens from eggs? How cool! Aren't the babies just a blast? We loved to watch the chicks because they'd peep and run all over the place ... and then fall asleep in their tracks. The hen house would go from "Peep, peep, peep" to dead silence. And then in five minutes, it would all start again.

C. L. Beck said...

Tristi,
Glad you enjoyed it!

C. L. Beck said...

Rachelle,
I had to laugh at your comment. I've never looked at oatmeal in a good light, so I'm happy to say the incident did not change my opinion of the glop in any way! :)

C. L. Beck said...

Keith,
Glad you enjoyed it!

C. L. Beck said...

Oh goodness, how rude of me. I overlooked telling all of you ... thanks so much for commenting!