Monday, October 20, 2008

The Things I Learned From a Dying Chicken

We have these five-week-old chicks, my impulse buy, that will hopefully someday relieve my anxiety about whether the chickens will have laid enough eggs for me to bake a cake. There are 30 of them, the Rainbow Layer Special pack plus 5 Barred Rocks. The chicks live in a nice little pen in the outer reaches of the Slab and are generally growing well.
One of the chicks, an Araucana, had a deformed beak that didn't match up to close properly. It looked sort of like the curved clippers you use on dogs' toenails. I've only raised two sets of chicks and I've had an Araucana with a messed-up beak in each one. In each case the chicken seemed to do just fine for the first five weeks or so, until the other birds got old enough for social ordering and started to pick on her. That's what happened with this one. I was looking at her in the morning, noticing that she wasn't growing quite as well as the others. I thought about separating her but, as Earl pointed out, her beak wasn't going to fix itself with nurturing and she'd either work it out or she wouldn't. When I checked back a few hours later, I found her smushed into the shavings, other birds stepping over her.

I thought she was dead and reached to pick up the body. And she moved. Of course, I was reaching to pick up the body with a paper towel because I am convinced that skin-to-chicken contact could be lethal to me. Especially skin-to-dead-chicken. But she was only mostly dead, and I set about trying to revive her. I got out some warm water and dissolved some sugar in it and, in the absence of an eye dropper, fed her some drops with the finger-held-over-the-end-of-a-straw trick. I brought her in the greenhouse where it was about 90 degrees and I tried to get some life in her. I won't keep you in suspense. She died anyway, but she seemed to breathe more comfortably for a short time. I'd like to think I brought her some comfort in her final hour, but I can't say that with confidence. I did, however, get to spend some time close up with a chicken that I was sure wasn't going to move and make fatal contact, so I learned a few things.

First, I learned that chicken eyelids are below the eye and come up to close.

Second, I learned that chickens can snore. Or maybe just dying chickens who have been fed drops of sugar water with a straw can snore, hard to say.

Third, and most notably, I got to see a chicken's tongue. I don't know that so many people have seen a chicken tongue, but I'm pretty sure the producers of horror movies have seen them. You know in a scary movie how sometimes a person will be walking through the woods, la dee da, and notice a hole and wonder, "Hmmm, that's odd. I wonder why there's a hole here?" And suddenly this long, pointed tongue will come out of the hole and wrap itself around the person's legs, dragging him/her to a horrible death? That tongue was a chicken tongue. And if a character was fighting his/her way through a host of horrible and fantastic creatures, and just when it was looking good for our hero, one of them appeared out of nowhere and roared a terrible roar, opening its mouth to reveal hundreds of razor sharp teeth and a skinny, wiggling tongue that you, the viewer, will see in your nightmares for weeks to come, that tongue was a chicken tongue. It is a truly frightening body part and I hope my experience with it is limited to this one episode.

So there you have it. Perhaps these little tidbits of information can help you win a trivia game in the twisted future our country seems headed for, though I, for one, hope it never comes to that.


Anonymous said...

why were u afraid 2 touch a chicken-they're harmless-i have 32 of them!

RockBottom Farm said...

Of course chickens are harmless. And yet, they creep me the fuck out.