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I Remember Chickens

By Charles M. Morrison, Sr.

Photograph by Kim Johnson.

Not long ago, my wife was fixing some chicken for dinner. This got me to thinking about the old Upshur County farm that I grew up on and the frustration I had with chickens some 50 years ago.

Being raised on a 28-acre farm, part of my daily chores included feeding the chickens corn, giving them water to drink, feeding them some crushed oyster shells, and, last but not least, gathering the eggs. Every egg counted, either to eat or to sell at Holden's grocery store, which was located nearby at Tennerton. Mom and Dad would take the extra eggs there and would sell them and use the money to buy groceries that we needed. My mother would wash and clean the eggs before they could be sold.

We had a variety of different chickens. We had chickens that laid white and brown eggs and some banty eggs, which were smaller. You could easily tell the pullet eggs, because they were smaller when the pullets first began to lay eggs.

Our neighbors, the Wingroves, raised a lot of chickens and sold eggs, also. They would ask us boys to come over and shell out some corn to feed their chickens. They were rich enough to have a corn sheller, which made it easier and quicker to shell the corn. We would take turns turning the crank to shell the corn. We would turn it as fast as we could with no ears of corn in it and then see how many ears we could feed through the sheller before it would stop. It would grind off right around 13 or 14 ears before stopping. The Wingroves also had little plastic coils that were white, blue, red, and green. They would place them on the hen's leg to tell the age of the hen and if they were laying or not. We did not need them for our chickens.

One day when I was very young, I was coming back from the mailbox and had to go past the chicken house to cross the old footbridge to cross the small stream to get to our farmhouse. All the chickens and roosters were outside scattered about, scratching and eating in the pasture field. I don't know why, but an old rooster came at me from behind and flogged me on my back and around my neck. Not only did it scare me, but also the spurs and flapping of the wings hurt quite a bit. Now, I didn't do a thing to provoke that rooster! Needless to say, after that incident, chickens were not my best friends. An older gentleman told me some time later to watch an old rooster, and if he lowered his breast and head and started for you, that he was going to jump you. Looking back on the way the old roosters would act before attacking, he was right.

I remember one time coming out the back door of the house and going through the back gate. Just outside the fence that went around the yard, I spotted a rooster, maybe 30 feet or so away from me. I reached down and picked up a small rock and let it fly, striking the rooster in the head or upper neck. The rooster hit the ground, and I thought for sure that I had killed him dead. I looked back toward the house to see if Mom or Dad saw me and then headed for the rooster. I got within 10 feet or so, and he flopped a little and just laid there. I then got closer and saw the white of his eyes blink and a relief came over me. He was not dead! I took my foot and nudged him. The old rooster then attempted to get up on his feet with one wing outstretched, touching the ground, and sort of went around in a circle. When he got his senses back, he ran for all he could to get away from me. Didn't have much trouble with the roosters after that.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.