By C.L. Beck
Not long ago, I related an anecdote from my exceptionally short career as a chicken farmer. If you missed it, you can read it in the Oct. 15th blog archives.
For those who’ve already read it, you’ll remember I had the brilliant idea to feed our flock of chickens left-over, cooked oatmeal. Waste not; want not—that’s my motto. The hens pecked at the glop, which collected into sticky wads that enlarged as the birds tried to clean their beaks in the dirt. From that experience, I learned poultry have the IQ of a grasshopper—which coincidentally, is how the next event occurred.
“Hey look,” I said to my three-year-old son, Davey. “Chickens eat grasshoppers.” We watched the hens flapping their bronze-red wings as they zeroed in and fought over the helpless bug that had mistakenly leapt into the pen.
It gave me an idea. “We could herd grasshoppers to them,” I said with enthusiasm.
We walked into the weeds 20 feet away and waved our arms, trying to drive the long-legged hoppers into the pen. It was like trying to herd minnows. When we were done, we’d managed to shoo two beetles and a mosquito into a pen of 50 chickens. You can imagine the fight that ensued.
Giving up, Davey and I started back to the house to fix lunch. “Don’t tell Daddy we tried to herd grasshoppers,” I said.
“Why?” he asked, his blue eyes bright with curiosity.
“Because Daddy has this silly notion that Mommy comes up with crazy schemes.”
“Schemes? What’s a ‘schemes’?” he asked.
“The nutball ideas that Daddy thinks up,” I explained.
Lunch was hotdogs—not my favorite. We ended up with a few left on the plate. “What can we do with disgusting, left-over hotdogs?” I asked Davey.
He replied, “Eat them for supper.” Obviously, a three-year-old is clueless about what constitutes a good meal.
I scratched my head. “Maybe we can feed them to the chickens.”
Davey nodded in agreement. Somehow, it felt like déjà vu.
I consulted my chicken manual. It didn’t say anything about feeding hotdogs to chickens—I don’t know why. Probably a lack of real-world education on the part of the author. But if the birds liked grasshoppers, hotdogs had to be fine.
Remembering the oatmeal fiasco—and opting not to give 50 chickens CPR because they were choking on whole wieners—I sliced the hotdogs into round, one inch pieces. We marched to the coop, pieces of meat in hand and flung them into the pen. 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!”
Definitely déjà vu.
My husband, Russ, and I raced to the hen house. The birds milled about, flapping their wings.
“They must be sick,” I said, watching them shake their heads as if they had palsy.
Russ looked puzzled. “They’ve got something stuck on their beaks.”
“That’s weird.” I replied, wondering if I could beat him back to the house before he figured it out.
“It looks like … like they’ve speared pieces of hotdog,” he said, peering intently at the birds.
The hens “ba-wahked” softly as if trying to give him a clue. I turned and stepped toward the house, but before I had a chance to expand my talents as a sprinter, Russ grabbed my hand and said, “What have you tried now?”
“It’s perfectly logical,” I said. “Chickens eat grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are meat. Hotdogs are meat. Therefore, chickens eat hotdogs.”
“Yes, in small bits. Instead, you gave them a bulls-eye to peck.”
I looked at the hens, their beaks held fast by a ring of hotdog. “You know, I don’t think your suggestion of raising poultry was such a good one,” I said.
“My suggestion?” Russ dropped my hand in surprise.
I waved in the direction of the hens, which were still preoccupied with getting hotdogs off their beaks. “Yes, we’re not cut out to be chicken farmers.”
“I couldn’t agree more,” Russ replied.
“So the next time an idea like this comes up—” I stepped out of reach and flashed him a wicked grin, “—let’s raise pigs!”