I Remember When . .
The Chicken Critter
| When I was about 13 or 14, I had made enough
money picking cotton to buy an old Rhode Island Red hen from our
neighbors, Ray and Reba Scott. I also bought a setting of Buff Orpington
eggs for her to hatch. Yeah, I know, I've written about this before, but I
said that to say this. When the baby chicks hatched, I built a small pen
to place them in. An old trunk was used for the coop. A door was made for
it and it hinged at the top. A prop was placed under the door to keep it
open until she put her chicks to bed. One day, when they were about
half-grown, As one of the pullets ran into the coop, the prop fell out.
The door dropped and slammed shut, catching her at the neck. She fell over
and was apparently dead. She didn't seem able to breathe. I grabbed her
up, cupping my hand around the beak and forced my breath into her. She
finally started breathing and recovered. I had just given her artificial
resuscitation. That was a number of years before I had ever heard of the
One chick that this hen hatched, was blind in one eye from birth. I made a pet out of it. When they all matured and the pullets began laying, old pet went right up into a nest too. Pet never laid an egg, but would come off the nest cackling just like the pullets, sounding as he had just laid a prize egg. Pet was a real puzzle to me. We referred to him as a male. His head, comb and neck feathers were like those of a rooster. He had spurs like a rooster. Otherwise his other body parts looked mostly like a hen. When he was a year and a half old he began learning to crow. This was quite a task. He, or it, would utter all sorts of squeaky noises. After about 6 months of hard work, he finally became a crower, did quite well at it too. He would walk from a clump of weeds cackling and if one wasn't aware of his character, it would have been obvious that the guy had laid an egg-----and very proud of it too, but not so. Just another false alarm. He never displayed any amorous feelings for the hens. He would beg for food by cocking his head to one side, looking at us with his one good eye and sing like a hen. I would feed him a little grain and he would be content. I discovered accidentally, that by placing one hand beneath him near the pelvic region and bouncing him slightly, he would rid himself of anything that could cause a mess in the house. I would do this before I took him in and never had to worry about his manners. I took him to town once and sat him on the sidewalk. A crowd of people soon gathered around. He would look up at all of them and go into his act like a professional, singing at the top of his voice as he delighted in his concert, as if he were thinking he had the most beautiful voice in all the land.
During this time, I had set some guinea eggs under his mother and she hatched about 12 or 13 guineas. Guineas don't wean very well and will follow their mother until they are nearly grown. I was having this problem and needed to get her back into egg production. One day my Uncle John Carson was there for a visit and suggested removing their mother from them and replacing her with Pet. It was worth a try. When he walked into the coop he had to squat slightly to get in. When he did this, all the little guineas ran in under him. By the next day he had adopted them. He learned to pick up a grain of corn and cluck to them. They would all come running to him and he would feed them. He became an excellent Mom.
After he had finished raising the guineas and was back with the flock, the roosters decided that he just might be a rooster too and a serious competitor for the affections of their hens. They were forever chasing him and fighting him. He never fought back, but was continuously trying to escape. This was no life for him, so I finally got rid of him
We never really knew his true gender, but some of his organs probably never developed right causing him to be similar to a capon.
Harry Shumard Class of '43