A Tribute to Chickens
By Laura Anderson, Daily Star Staff Writer – 1980
It’s time to thank the chickens of America for taking the abuse caused by the lifestyles of the people. Sounds rather trivial? Not to a chicken. If one were to consider the way in which a chicken is taken for granted, it would appall most.
To begin with, the life of a chicken is hectic and seemingly boring. For 21 days fertilized eggs are kept in an incubator, which manages to keep an unbearable temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Non-fertilized eggs eventually become part of a broccoli souffle, or an angel food cake, or a cheese omelet, or… and the list goes on. Realistically this approach is the easy way out, for the life of a chicken is enough to have them all committed to an asylum for birds.
After the chicken is born, or rather hatched, the big dilemma is: do I lay eggs for a lifetime and then become part of a stew, or peck around until I am big enough to be eaten at some backyard barbecue? Female chickens, commonly called hens, are given the short end of the stick. When young, they sit in a cage, no larger than a microwave oven, and lay eggs day in and day out. Hens usually lay more than 200 eggs a year. But after about twelve months of laying those blasted eggs for the local A&P, the production declines. Then the hens, now over the hill, are sold for stewing meat.
Male chickens spend their days caged in a yard with all their buddies. Friendships are broken when about nine-tenths of the chickens leave the neighborhood to become fryers. The rest mope around for another one to three months, only to be stuffed as roasters. A small percentage are castrated and ridiculed by friends as the “capons of society.”
Chicken, presently selling at an average of 59 cents per pound, is also known as the cheaper of meats, or inflation food. Such statements as “well, I guess we’ll have chicken again” or “since we can’t afford beef, we’ll have to have chicken twice a week,” hurt a chicken’s heart, literally, in more than one way. It used to be that chicken was a delicacy, and beef and pork were everyday items. In fact, Herbert Hoover repeatedly said during the Great Depression, “A chicken in every pot, and two cars in every garage.”
Not only did the chicken lose its status, but it also is the topic of many negative sayings. For instance, the coward is told “don’t be a chicken,” while the impatient ones get the retorted statement “don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched.” Then there’s the famous label chicken-hearted, referring to the mothers who allow their kids to get dirty and eat Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies and fruit pies at any hour. Of course, one can’t forget the screaming maniac being told “don’t run around like a chicken with your head cut off.”
Chickens manage to be the subject of many dumb questions. For example, why did the chicken cross the road? The only fool who doesn’t know the answer to that is Mother Nature. One question did manage to spark up dinner conversations: “which came first the chicken or the egg?” That one is about as original as they get.
Chickens are also put with other words to define horrible diseases, habits and even characters, as in the case of Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling. Chicken pox, that dreaded, once-in-a-lifetime disease, creates patients who scratch endlessly and spend most of their time in bathtubs filled with water and baking soda. For those of us who are burdened with horrible handwriting, it is called chicken scratching.
When does it all end? Throughout a chicken’s lifetime it puts up with cages, troughs, derogatory statements, the cost of living, and the list goes on. Let us learn to appreciate these fine plucked, once feathered, friends of ours by paying a tribute to them. The next time you see a chicken lying in a yellow styrofoam platter, covered with cellophane, give it a smile, a brief thank you for the trauma it has suffered, and then continue with your shopping cart to the extra large eggs.
Chicken photos taken by The Bold Brunette.
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