The Chicken Yard: Raising Chickens on the Family Farm

Working in her family farm's chicken yard provided livelihood and fond memories for a Mississippi woman

| Good Old Days

I grew up on a family farm with my parents and nine brothers and sisters. I was sixth in line. As we grew up to handle responsibilities each one had to do his or her part.

My area of responsibility was in the chicken yard. We raised chickens from start to finish. They were a large part of our livelihood. Nature created the hen to become broody in the summertime; she quit laying and sat on her nest like a dummy for weeks at a time if allowed. We put broody hens on a nest of 15 carefully selected large eggs. We had nest apartments of about 12 in a row. Each hen had her own apartment where she settled in for her three weeks of brooding. She sat patiently, as if in a trance. Once each day I put her in a coop where she had her feed, water, dust bath and elimination; she never soiled her nest.

After three weeks of this, we listened closely and we could hear a little tapping going on inside the egg. Soon a little hole appeared. As the chick kept pecking, the opening grew larger. Finally the shell broke in two and out came a little wet chick. It soon dried and became a beautiful, bright-eyed fluffy little ball.

The hen and her chicks were housed in a larger coop. Soon they roamed the yard, garden and orchard searching for grass-hoppers, beetles and anything that suited their fancy in addition to their usual diet of small grains and water.

As they grew larger, the day came when the cockerels were large enough for the frying pan. To catch them we used a stick with an extended wire with a hook bent on the end to snare them by the leg. They then went to the chopping block; this part I did not like. Next they were immersed in very hot water, which made it easy to remove their feathers.

After being washed and cut into serving pieces, the chicken was ready for the frying pan, which had plenty of pork fat in it. Along with new potatoes, peas and pie made with fresh-picked cherries, this was a dinner to be remembered.



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