I have always had chicken on the farm. When I decided to get serious about the farm, I inherited my mother’s chickens. All ten of them. They had been ten for roughly five years. Farm hands can depopulate your farm quite efficiently if you are not watchful.
So, I took up the ten chickens and worked to get their numbers to respectable levels. Soon enough, I did. Chickens multiply quite fast when properly managed. Chicks hatch after roughly 21 days and your average hen should be able to sit on and hatch ten to fifteen eggs at a time. I have had hens hatch up to nineteen chicks. The numbers grew to roughly 50 chickens within four months. I say roughly because I have always found chicken census to be a very tricky business. Remember Road Runner from the cartoon series of the same name? Now try counting 50 of her, while she is dead set on running away from you!
At the time, I had planted a crop of jalapeno chilies and green grams. I had not fenced off the home compound so there was no clear demarcation between the farm and the home. The chickens spent their days foraging and roaming free all day long. We fed them thrice a day.
One day, a clever rooster discovered the jalapeno. Roosters by their very nature are polygamous. This one had a wife and nine concubines! In his bid to impress his harem, he flew over the fence to the jalapeno field. If you spend enough time around farm animals, you get to understand them. I could hear this guy clucking to his harem, and in my interpretation, it went like this (queue Barry White’s voice in your head)
Rooster: Hey Ladies! You know I promised to take care of y’all right? Well guess what? I planted me a field of jalapeno and green grams all for you!
Hens: Oh my! What a gentleman you are! (Giggles and swooning)
Rooster: Well, come on over and taste the fruits of my labor! I am The Man around here after all
Hens: Yes darling. We shall just sneak our way through the fence. We’re too plump to fly elegantly like you did. You’re so handsome when you fly! (More swooning)
Long and short of it? My jalapenos were all eaten by the chickens. Every last one of them. The green grams too. I remember traveling to the farm and I’d ask my farm hands what was happening and they’d insist it was the chickens. I did not believe them until I caught the chickens breaking into the farm. I promptly fenced the farm.
Every morning the chickens would wake up and stand at the fence, waiting for their brilliant rooster to call them over the fence for their feast. He could not. For one, there was a fence and secondly, we had made a fantastic stew of him. Very tasty! Manicured Farmer – one; Rooster – Nil.
Over time, the hens forgot about the bounty over the fence. I would occasionally catch them staring longingly into the farm, wondering how they had lost out on that feast that they knew existed there. As they matured, we sold them off, and kept their descendants. Those are the chickens I now have.
Here’s the funny thing. I catch them staring longingly at the farm through the fence. It makes me think of how we humans stare longingly at the stars. Almost as if we are searching for something we know is there but our collective memories fail to fully crystalize it.