Saturday, July 4, 2009


Clarence age 97

All farmers had chickens when we were kids. They were a part of farm life. Some farmers had ducks, geese, guineas and even turkeys. But chickens were standard for meat, eggs to eat and to sell. The egg money bought groceries. Mom would say 'go catch me a chicken for dinner'. We would try to get one of the hens that was not laying eggs at the time. Sometimes we would get the wrong one and it would be full of eggs in the making. I would chop the head off and mom would have hot water ready to scald the chicken so the feathers were easy to pick off. When we were finished picking mom would clean it, cut it up and cook it so it was ready to eat for dinner that day. When we had fryers we prepared them the same way. Fresh killed chicken tasted a lot better than what you buy in the store today.

Dad's blacksmith shop was under a tree and there were always small pieces of iron laying around. One day when I was playing I picked up a small piece of iron and threw it high in the air. When it came down it hit mom's rooster and killed it. It was one she had kept for the hens. I hated to go tell her but I did and she said 'well, clean him and we will have chicken and noodles for supper.

Mom told us kids a story about something that happened when she was a small girl at home. Her parents lived just north of Miltonvale. There used to be Gypsies that traveled the countryside and one day two Gypsy women stopped at their farm. One of the women told grandma that she had a sick child with a fever and she would like to have a hen chicken to make some broth. Grandma told mom, in French, to 'go get that old setting hen and give it to the woman'. The woman said back, in French, 'No! no! Don't want old setting hen!'. I think they finally gave her another hen. If you didn't give them something they would steal you blind. My mother didn't speak English until she went to school.

Darlene's brother-in-law, Clarence, who is 97 years old, tells when he was in 4-H in Saline county in 1926. The Salina Chamber of Commerce had a program for 4-H'ers to start a project to start a flock of laying hens so they would have eggs to sell. They gave him 14 fertile eggs to take home and hatch. They next year they were supposed to give 14 eggs to another kid so he could start his project. On they way home he broke one so was left with 13 eggs to hatch out. 10 of them hatched and 3 never did. So he ended up with 10 chicks. To his surprise, and disappointment, as they grew they all turned out to be roosters, so that was the end of his project. It's hard to get eggs out of a rooster! But, in later years he really got in the chicken business. He put up a large building that held 1,680 laying hens in individual cages. That is a lot of chickens! He said the most eggs he gathered in one day was 1,402.

Darlene HATES chickens! When she was a little girl her aunts all had chickens and every rooster they ever had 'flopped' her, pecked her and would knock her down. This spring we were in Concordia and stopped at a farm store that had some nice looking flower plants to set out. I went in to see about some plants and came out with 10 baby chicks. Darlene said she is never going to let me go in a store alone again!

When our boys were small we would buy baby chick called a 'straight run' which was a mixture of roosters and hens. We would eat the roosters and save the pullets for eggs. One time we had about 200 and they were just about two weeks from being ready to dress. One night we had a bad storm and the electricity went off. The chickens piled up in the corner of the shed and nearly smothered. Darlene and son Mark dressed 125 in the middle of the night. They were about broiler size and they skinned them.

One time we had 12 hens and 1 rooster in a small pen with a coop. It was son Tommy's job to feed and water the chickens and gather the eggs. We called the rooster Henry and he was ornery. Tom was about 6 or 7 years old and he came to the house all upset saying 'I killed Henry! I killed Henry!'. He had opened the gate to take care of the chickens and Henry got out. Tom picked up a good sized stick and whacked Henry who fell flat on the ground. We went back out to the pen and Henry got up and staggered back through the gate and into the coop. He didn't come out for three days! Guess the stick knocked him out cold.

Jesus talked about chickens. "Oh, Jerusalem, oh, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." Mt. 23:37 NIV

I have seen this many times, how a hen protects her chicks from danger, and if you ever see it you won't ever doubt the love Jesus has for you. We would let some of the hens run free in the spring and they would make nests around the farmyard. Pretty soon you would see a mother hen coming with her little chicks, usually eight or ten. If she saw a hawk fly over that endangered the chicks the hen would make a certain sound to call them to her, spread her wings, and they would all run under them so that all you could see was the hen. The hawk wouldn't bother the hen. Pretty soon you would see a little head peek out from under her wings. When the danger was past she would just stand up and the chicks would go out in safety.

He will cover you with his wings, you will be safe in His care; His faithfulness will protect and defend you. Psalm 91:4 GNB

No comments: