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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Sep 20, 2013

Everyone knows fall is a time of harvest. If it is a big job, equipment is readied in advance. Storage places are prepared for the coming crop.

Whether it is a vegetable garden or a field of corn or soybeans, a few things are the same.

However, I remember one fall job when growing up that was not harvest related and was done this time of year.

My dad would buy about 500 little yellow chicks in the winter that soon became small chickens and by the time summer arrived, they were starting to lay eggs.

My sisters and I would go looking for those pullet eggs. We discovered it helped if you thought like a chicken.

The chickens roamed the farm, spending nights in a chicken house that was nothing more than a roof with mesh for walls to keep the chickens in and the predators out.

It was around this time of year we would have to move the chickens into the permanent chicken house for the winter where they were kept warm, the water didn’t freeze and it was much easier to gather the eggs.

For two nights, we had to catch the chickens who were roosting in these summer chicken houses, put them in crates and move them to the permanent chicken house.

It was a family event with my dad and mother and two sisters and me, waiting until it was dark, usually around 10 p.m., then catch the chickens that were roosting and move them crate by crate.

It was a nuisance job because while the chickens were easy to catch, once we had a hold of their leg, they would start flapping their wings and giving their distress call.

That made the other chickens harder to catch so it got more difficult as we progressed.

Before releasing the chickens in the main chicken house, each had to be de-beaked to keep them from cannibalizing each other.

The de-beaker was basically a hot knife blade that removed the top part of the chicken’s beak. For the chicken it was probably the final insult of the evening.

There were enough chickens it was not possible to do them in one night without working until well into the early morning hours.

On the third night we went after the chickens that like to roost in the trees and while there were only a few of them, it was still slow.

That was 55 years ago and I can still remember it easily.

I am not sure my own children have ever heard of this part of how my sisters and I grew up when we were in grade school.

My parents quit the chicken business in the mid-1960s, and I do not believe they missed any part of it except for the regular egg check.

Like a lot of things in life, I look back at it and think that I am glad that job is behind me and yet at the same time, maybe it wasn’t that bad after all.

Then again, maybe it was.

Yeah, it was.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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