Now Introducing the Chickens of The Farm —
“La musica de las gallinas,” El Salvadoreno said with a laugh as the entire chicken coop broke out in a cackling chorus.
They were all screaming at us in their loudest of chicken voices because we were shoveling the shit out of their habitation — our sanitation work was obviously not being appreciated.
I spent four hard hours shoveling out chicken crap with El Salvadoreno one day on the farm, and was only cackled and pecked at for my labor. Tough customers, those chickens.
But I did learn that the conventional farm chickens are vastly more intelligent than I previously took them to be. Their intelligence seems to be so acute for the precise reason that they cloaked it in stupidity.
As El Salvadoreno and I cleaned out the chicken coop, I don’t know how many times I watched a hen gradually walk towards the open door of the pen. They seem very innocent, as they scratch at the ground and pretend to be eating something (?) in the wood shavings that cover the floor . . . Then, as soon as I turn my back, they bolt through the door.
If intelligence is connected with the ability to plan, then I say that the chicken is not a stupid animal.
“Porque usted molesta las gallinas?” J asked El Salvadoreno one day.
J and I had just watched El Salvadoeno swinging a hen back and forth as he held it by both of its wings. He would knock it gently against the other hens, and delight in the action he provoked when they would throw a bunch of faux pecks and cackle at each other. J could not understand why El Salvadoreno would wantonly torment the chickens, but I knew from experience that this is just how farm kids play all over the world.
El Salvadoreno is a farm boy. He probably grew up playing with chickens instead of toys.
The Fast Little Brown Chickens and the Slow Little White Chickens before we put them in separate enclosures
El Salvadoreno had no intention of hurting the chickens, he was just playing a little. I have watched roosters tear each other limb from limb in cockfighting rings — I know how tough chickens are. What El Salvadoreno was doing would not dent these hens in either body or mind, he was just playing a little kid sort of game.
“It is just what children do for fun in his country,” I tried to explain to J, while remembering all of the chicken directed torment I have witnessed at the hands of young kids all over the world. It is usually much worse than what we saw El Salvadoreno doing.
“I really don’t think he is suppose to be doing that,” J made sure I knew that El Salvadoreno’s example should not be followed.
J obviously did not think that a grown man should be going around pissing off chickens for the fun of it. He confronted El Salvadoreno about it.
El Salvadoreno could not contain his laughter.
“Molesta las gallianas! Molesta las gallinas!” he roared in hysterics.
It was clearly a radically comical notion to El Salvadoreno that any person would try to stick up for a chicken.
I laughed too. J walked away.
There are 6 groups of chickens that I am partly in charge of caring for on The Farm:
1. The Baby Turkeys – who are not really chickens, but are cared for in a similar fashion. These little yellow guys spend the entire day trying to trample each other in hog piles in the corners of their pen. I don’t know why they do this. There are heat lamps in their pen, but they opt for the warmth of a hog pile instead.
I asked the more experienced farmers about this. They told me that it was a mystery of farming: baby chickens have an affinity for corners. Which is why many pens for little chicks are designed to be circular. We tried to make our pens circular with large pieces of cardboard, but the chicks just smashed them until they got their corner back.
2. The Fast Brown Little Chickens, who ate the tails off of the slow white little chickens who once shared a pen with them. These little guys are young, very fast, and, apparently, have an affinity for eating the tails of slower moving chickens.
3. The Slow White Little Chickens, who had to be moved out to the pen they once shared with the Fast Brown Little Chickens after having their tails eaten off. These Slow White Little Chickens were apparently too slow to get away from the Fast Brown Little Chickens who delighted in eating their tails.
(Editors note: the fast brown little chickens now have these mysterious white spots all over their rear ends . . .)
It has recently been stated that the Slow White Little Chickens will soon be ready to eat. They are meat chickens and we will soon turn them into meat.
The Mean Chickens giving me “the eye”
4. The Mud Hens, a.k.a the Zombie Chickens, who live outside in an area that the excessive rain turned into a mud pit. They are muddy and mob any person who stumbles into their lyre like a gaggle of mindless zombies — hence their nickname. These guys are egg layers, and I help collect their deposits three times a day.
5. The Nice Hens, who are old enough to produce eggs but have not yet learned how to be mean. These are sneaky chickens who often try to escape.
and . . .
6. The Mean Chickens, who are downright mean. These chickens are of the same stock as the Nice Hens, but are a year older. Apparently, during this additional year they have learned how to be mean. They bite, scream, angrily cackle, and try to attack any mortal who dares attempt to remove their eggs. I am a farmer. It is my job to remove their eggs. So I get bitten and attacked by the Mean Chickens a couple times a day.
I hate the Mean Chickens. I get the feeling that my hatred is mutually held by every member of this chicken coop.
It is an odd feeling to have another being on this planet vengefully strike out at you in a rage of pure hate and violence — even if it is just a measly chicken. It is the look in these chicken’s eyes that make me automatically hate them, rather than the pecks of their beaks.
Each day we brawl. I walk into their coop and they spot me immediately. They stare me down with whatever eye they choose to look at me with, as they cock their ugly reptile heads to the side. They keep this one eye on me the entire time I do my work. I believe that these animals really hate me.
I try to take their eggs, and the fight begins. They peck, scream, and will try to break their own eggs before I can collect them. It is often a race between species: can the farmer remove the eggs before the Mean Chickens break them?
One overly aggressive Mean Chicken even bit on to one of my fingers and tried to shake it dead in proper canine style. My first reaction was to punch it in the face . . . and travelers often have the tendency of making good on their first reactions.
I cautiously spoke of my transgression to my fellow coworkers, only to find that all had also — at some time or another — punched a Mean Chicken in the face. . . .or grabbed them by their necks . . . or thrown them out of the laying nests.
(well, all except for one employee, who asserts that he gentle removes the Mean Chickens from their laying nests and gently sets them on the ground and gently removes their eggs . . . Editor’s note: the editor thinks that this farm employee is full of shit in this particular matter.)
For all intensive purposes, I do not stand alone on The Farm as the sole chicken beater.
“These are the most aggressive chickens that we have ever had,” spoke El Dueno after he showed me the scars on his hands from the Mean Chickens.
I have tended to chickens before. On the farm that I once work on in Ireland, I took care of a dozen chickens in a single pen. I do not remember too much about them. I suppose this lack of memory is a testament to the fact that they must have been well behaved chickens who did not bite the hands which fed them. In contrast, the Mean Chickens on The Farm give me a run for my travel funds.
I have been enjoying my chicken dinners with additional relish these days. I now have only one response to Chaya’s question of what I want to eat for dinner:
The Mud Hens, a.k.a the Zombie Chickens, doing their zombie march after me
Work on The Farm