Friday, December 02, 2016


     I participate in a little neighborhood online bulletin board, mostly by reading. My neighborhood, like many these days, is home to a few chicken-owners. Perhaps more than average, since SoBro is home to Agrarian, an upscale version of the good old feed & seed co-op and an excellent source of small domestic fowl* and everything you need to raise them.

     This is supposed to be a "new trend" but in fact, it's a very old one.  My Mom, who grew up in the 1930s and 40s, was a city girl and her family kept chickens everywhere they lived -- and milk-goats, too, if they had a big enough lot.  This was not unusual at the time, at least in the Midwest.  Mother never tasted cow's milk until she attended public school.†  (She and her siblings tended to make pets of the surplus goats despite being warned not to, which caused an occasional very awkward dinner.)

     A recent posting to the neighborhood thing complained of a rooster crowing at 5:30 a.m. (which is, by the way, a very fine time for a rooster to crow -- that whole 5:30 to 8:00 a.m. block, is exactly when they're supposed to be rousting folks out of bed) and wondering if the owners can't silence it? 

     There is only one way to effectively silence a rooster; the owner responded, saying the rooster was already overdue to go to the Great Beyond or possibly a crockpot, and screen after screen of horrified comments ensued: "Don't kill it, rehome it!" "Send the rooster off to a farm to live out its natural life!"  --The "natural life" of excess roosters on a farm is to get fed to the hogs, if they're lucky; but don't try to tell moderns that.

     But the capper was the commenter who mused, "...I don't think many of us realized that people who own chickens in the city were using them for anything other than eggs. There's something about butchering an animal in an urban residential area that just seems generally unseemly."

     Lady, it's a chicken. If you're not the kind of "wit" who cuts off their heads and lets them run all over the backyard while they're expiring, it's no more "unseemly" than what the local high-end butcher does with a side of beef and a collection of cutting instruments that may include a stainless-steel bandsaw, in a tiny shopping district in the middle of an urban residential area. It's a good deal less unseemly than what any of your neighbors who hunt will be up to in their garage if they're lucky enough to bag a deer.

     I don't dislike chickens, though I think they're dumber than a bag of rocks and considerably more smelly.  I'd need to be a lot hungrier before I'd kill and dress one, though I do love fresh eggs, especially when laid by a critter that lives outdoors and gets to eat bugs.  But calling out the normal process of slaughtering and eating non-productive hens (and perhaps even roosters, though IIRC, they're a bit tough and gamy) as "unseemly" when you only know it happens because your neighbors said so, is just about the silliest thought I have seen expressed today. Possibly this week.

* They also sell ducks.  This is a great temptation to me: as a child, I had a duck and so did my baby brother.  They are pleasant, garrulous creatures if you have enough yard to ensure the duck splat doesn't get too concentrated, who wander around all day "talking" to one another and eating whatever they find that looks edible.  Ours each laid an egg a day, rich and strong-flavored, excellent for baking and just fine fried.  Alas, Roseholme Cottage doesn't have enough yard for two ducks and a solo duck would be too lonely: they're not very bright but they're quite social.

† For reasons I have never fully understood, she managed to avoid public school until third grade. Both of her parents were fully-qualified schoolteachers and the family was moving around a lot at the time, so perhaps it was just easier.  On the other hand, she was the youngest child in a very large family and though Mother's mother was an unsentimental person, I do wonder if my grandmother succumbed to the temptation to keep her youngest at home for just a couple more years.


Jeffrey Smith said...

Note to Ms. Unseemly

You don't want to live in Little Havana or Sweetwater. And don't ask about Kapores in an ultra Orthodox neighborhood.

Will said...

It may be as simple as your mother being useful around the house for her mom. Putting kids to work was one of the important reasons for having kids, way back when. Or now, in some 3rd world places.

I have a vague recollection of my mother teaching me to use a sewing machine, while home with the measles. Probably around 2nd/3rd grade. Out of school for a month, IIRC. Her side job was making custom drapes at home, so I think she saw it as a labor backup for herself. Late 50's, or so.

Greg said...

We had a few chickens around when I was a kid in the early 1950s but the neighbors, who were active farmers, had quite a few. Butchering day there featured quite a few headless chickens running around the yard. It tells you something about their brain power when a headless chicken is almost as functional, for some minutes at least, as one with his head still attached. Fresh baby goat is very tasty as well.

Sebastian said...

My mother grew up with backyard chickens. This is not some rural enclave, but Suburban Philadelphia, spitting distance from the city proper. My grandmother grew up with them too. It's looking like backyard chickens were only unusual from the 1960s through 2010s. Now it's becoming common again.

cydwatts said...

I grew up in Suburban Atlanta. was suburban then. It's two miles from Emory University. Neighbors had ducks and chickens, and one very annoying turkey (which is to say, in the 1970s it would escape the yard and come down the road to harass my cat).

Yes, there was a rooster, and it crowed every morning for several hours.

Most of us had no illusions as to why someone would have, and eventually kill, chickens and, frankly, if they hadn't probably the little beasties probably would have ended up overrunning the neighborhood. Also, chicken tastes good.

I'm assuming the rooster went the same way, because it eventually went quiet.

Greg said...

I've got friends with dairy goats and the excess males get names like Taco and Hamburger for the summer and take up residence in the freezer come fall. Cute and tasty!

Anonymous said...

Young rooster makes a fine dinner, it's the several year old ones that are tough and gamy. I have butchered chickens in my front yard, luckily I live far enough away from the suburbs that none on my neighbors cared.