Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Chicken Moving Day 1978
In my last post I mentioned a move onto Main Street from our 'farm' when I was a teenager. That was a pretty tough time for me, but looking back it sure created some memorable moments. One of those memories was the moving of the 50 or so chickens we still owned. There were times in my childhood that we had hundreds of chickens, but a few years before the move we stopped ordering new day-old chicks every spring and had been weeding out the older hens which weren’t laying well.
My Dad built a small coop and chicken run at the end of the long L-shaped lot and had assigned Jim and I to take a gunnysack each to transport the hens. He informed us that we were to put two chickens in each bag and carry them from the old coop to the new making as many trips as necessary. Jim and I started this task and had made a couple of trips back and forth with two hens in each sack. We figured how many trips it was going to take us to move the rest of the chickens and decided that we’d get done quicker if we put more chickens in each bag each trip. So the next trip we put three chickens in each bag and when we arrived we dumped them out and ran back for the next load. Being 13 and 16 years old and knowing everything, we decided that if it speeded up to carry three in each bag, we could hurry it up even more if we carried five each trip. When we got back to the old coop and started stuffing birds into bags, it suddenly became a contest to see who could get the most chickens in a gunnysack and carried to the new place. Let me say, a gunnysack with five or six plump hens in it was heavy and so instead of carrying those bags, it became more of ‘drag’ race. Back we ran for the next installment of chicken stuffing. There were about 20 chickens left strutting around that old coop and we chased and wrestled seven or eight of them into the bags and then realized if we just stuffed in a couple more to each sack it would be mission accomplished!
The gunnysacks were stretched so full of feathered bodies and were so heavy, we could hardly heave, push and pull them across the ground the few blocks to the new place. It took us longer to haul these birds and when we finally arrived our arms ached and our hearts pounded with the exertion. We tried to dump the loads of hens out, but they were so wedged and squished in, it really took some hard shaking to unload those sacks. As those last chickens fell out of the bag, they were as flaccid and limp as if they were dead. Jim and I realized we had asphyxiated more than a third of our flock. We were patting those chickens and trying to figure out if mouth to bill resuscitation would work when we heard the familiar sound of the back screen door slamming and peeked out and realized Dad was heading down to the chicken coop to check on our progress. “Oh, no!” I whispered, “What are we going to do??!” We were panicked because we knew that our Dad would find no humor in the smothering of 20 good laying hens. We were picking up the little heads on floppy necks and shaking them hoping they would somehow revive and save our backsides from the skinning we deserved.
It seemed like a movie with the camera cutting between Jim and I and our pile of lifeless chickens and to my Dad who was distractedly moseying down the path making his way to the coop. Just as he reached the door, those poor hens started to come to and were drunkenly getting to their feet, some of them staggering badly.
Dad asked us how it was going and we tried to act nonchalant as we picked up our gunnysacks and told him we had just finished. He commented that we had done that job much faster than he had expected we could and we told him some story about how we had run back and forth to make such good time. He just smiled and wandered back up to the house. Jim and I felt as wilted as those hens had been minutes before when we realized what a bullet we had dodged. We leaned against the wall of the coop for awhile and watched the chickens exploring their new home before we found the strength to make our way back to the house.
Theoretically, we learned something about doing the job right and not trying to take shortcuts, but in reality we probably just learned that we could cut corners if we were really lucky.