Grit Blogs > Country at Heart

Fowls Day and Country Chicks

Country at HeartI must explain that a "fowl day" is not a day when baseball players strike out every ball that's zipped past their bat, neither is a "country chick" an ignorant, back-wood, barefoot country girl. If you're real country, like me, you'll know that a fowl and a chick are the same – a feathered chicken.

Now, on to the story. Not because I was too young to tend chickens, but even if I were grown, I never entertained any ideas of "tending" chickens. Country people had all kinds of fowls, including the newborns that we called "biddies." These cute, little "feathers" are born with some kind of "shell" or hard skin on their small, tender beaks that have to be "pipped," we called it. It's done to "blunt" the beak and to prevent the chick from damaging its beak when it starts pecking. That was Mother's "veterinarian's job." She took each chick and delicately removed this hard, shell-like skin from the "biddy's beak.

There are several brands of chicken, and a neighbor even had turkeys. I thought they were so ugly and unsightly. And I couldn't imagine what was the purpose of that wrinkled, red part of their neck that always hung down near their chin. Perhaps I shouldn't be too critical of this big bird, because after all, it does end up as a center piece on some body's table every Thanksgiving.

Then, there were ducks. I was always sort of afraid of them, because they would chase you, especially if you got too close to their young ducklings ... I guess that's what they're called. However, I do love ducks. I think they're so cute, and today they are a part of my kitchen decor on glasses, cups, plates, and anything else that I find them on, including duck figurines.

a family on the move

Photo: iStockphoto.com/Christopher Withers

Then, there were guineas. Not guinea pigs, but guinea fowls. I figured they're a cross between a turkey and a chicken, but I'm not too sure of that. This is another funny-looking little fowl bird. I guess people eat guineas, but I don't remember us eating any. I think my neighbor (down in the woods) had some, and I think Grandmother did too.

And since I'm using so much fowl language today, I might as well drag all the birds into it. Now, everybody I know raised chickens. They are a staple of country life, and if you want a nice Sunday dinner, you'd better have a chicken coop somewhere nearby with a "clean" hen ready for slaughtering and "dressing."

Now, it may get a little gross, but I remember watching my aunt kill a chicken by wringing its neck. I'll leave the details off so the animal rights activists posse won't come hunting for us. Anyway, I remember my mother ordering baby chicks – from where, I have no idea. All I know is that the mailman brought 'em. Whenever he (not she) had a package, he'd honk his horn, and we'd go see what it was. I can still see him now handing that long, rectangular box (with holes cut in the top for the chicken to breathe) to my mother.

With that box of potential dinners and breakfast eggs, we were good to go. Mother took great care in tending and raising her little broods, and I guess that's why, to this day, chicken is still my favorite meat.

I'll throw this in for good measure. Chickens usually freely roamed the yard, eating bugs, worms and anything else they can digest. But, when we wanted a chicken to eat, that particular bird was put into a coop where it couldn't eat just anything. It was fed only corn which helps "clean" it out. Then, after a while, the chicken is considered clean and is slaughtered for a meal.