On the Farm – Free-range Chickens

Chicken - Free Rangin'
Chicken – Free Rangin’

I like chicken, but I hate eggs.  Not sure why that is, except I remember getting stomach viruses as a kid and always tasting rotten eggs as I was in distress.  I also hate ketchup.  In this case, I do know why.  When I was a kid, my mom worked at the local ice skating rink (it’s how I learned to skate and eventually play hockey).  The snack bar sold food like pizza, candy, soda and french fries.  They gave out these foil packets of ketchup like you get in McDonalds which kids loved to either stomp on with their skate, or pound with their fist so that the ketchup would shoot across the table or floor.  When skating was over, my mom had to help clean up the place before we went home.  We would help her by wiping down the tables, and to this day I can still remember the sickeningly sweet smell of dried ketchup.  So hell for me would come with a menu that served scrambled eggs and ketchup for every meal.

Stomped ketchup packet - the stuff of nightmares
Stomped ketchup packet – the stuff of nightmares

The ex-wife like eggs.  She decided to go to the livestock auction and buy a dozen chicks, Rhode Island reds.  You’d like to get a dozen hens, but it doesn’t work that way.  Nobody knows the sex of a chick, so you just have to wait for them to grow up to see what you have.  We had a statistically predictable 6 hens and 6 roosters.  When they get old enough, a bunch of roosters is not what you want hanging around, so we set about capturing them.  I got 5 out of 6, but one was a survivalist that I had to take out with the .22.  The hens we let run free, hence the “free-range” title of this post.

The captured roosters were taken to another farm by the ex-wife.  The women there were into some kind of crazy voodoo thing I think as they would take the birds by the feet and put them into a shiny steel cone.  The rooster was desperate to get away so it went toward the light which was a hole in the bottom of the cone just big enough to let his head through.  Now you have an upside-down rooster with his head sticking out of the bottom of a steel cone and his feet sticking out of the top, screaming at the top of his lungs.  Not for long.  The women deftly cut their throats and the birds bled out into a tank.  Don’t know what they did with the blood.  Not sure I want to know.

Chicken cone of death - maybe the most gruesome thing I've ever seen
Chicken cone of death – maybe the most gruesome thing I’ve ever seen

So the roosters became chicken soup base since they were too stringy and tough for anything else.  The problem with free range chickens is that there is no quality control on what they eat, and they have to spend all their time and energy trying to get enough.  So instead of fat contented eating chickens, you get skinny, tough survivalist chickens.  Good for a reality TV show, but not really good to eat.

The hens, on the other hand, used their free ranging abilities to lay eggs where ever and whenever they pleased.  And good luck trying to find out where they are.  We came across a cache of about 100 eggs on a hillside about 400 yards from the house.  Most had been there for quite some time.  I don’t know if we ever got to actually eat one of our free range eggs.

A clutch of free range eggs
A clutch of free range eggs

We figure that a fox got wind of our free range chickens and whittled their number down to a single hen.  At the same time, we were down to a single duck due to the raccoon attacks.  The duck and the hen became inseparable for months until one day when the hen disappeared supposedly via the same fox.

Unholy alliance of duck and chicken
Unholy alliance of duck and chicken

That was one bummed out duck.

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