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Miss Ida and her Chickens

Laura Lowe Miss Ida's Chickens

On a recent visit to the country to visit a dear lady by the name of Ida Payne, I saw something I did not expect. There were chickens in the back yard of her home. "What is so strange about that?" you might wonder. Miss Ida is 101 years old. The chicken coop and small enclosed yard was built by her “adopted son”, my cousin Charlie. Cousin lives with her and takes wonderful care of her, her dogs, the chickens and her home. His presence ensures that she will not have to spend her last days in a nursing home.

Miss Ida is a remarkable woman. Her mind at 101 is fully functional. Her sweet spirit is always welcoming when I visit. It is only recently that she has become bedridden. My mother, who has been gone almost 20 years, and Miss Ida were the best of friends. They talked on the phone daily. They were neighbors in the small rural community of Honoraville, Alabama.

My mother would be most impressed if she could know that Miss Ida has chickens. My mother raised chickens for years until she was unable to properly take care of them. One of my chores when my brother and I came home from school was to feed the chickens and make sure they had water. They were in a huge fenced in yard, but mostly they ranged free. We always had fresh eggs. It was never a problem for Mother to go out and kill a chicken for a meal. I was glad she never asked me to do that but I was impressed with the skill with which she dispatched the bird to chicken heaven and the feast we would have. We would have fried chicken with her delightful biscuits when she would kill a fryer. There would be mouth-watering chicken and dressing when she chose a hen. Her chicken and dumplings and chicken pot pie were always in demand. A lot less frequently we would have a roasted capon. Roosters were not often killed because they had work to do. They protected the hens and made sure there were future chickens.

I recently read an article in GRIT about protecting chickens from predators. Cousin Charlie tells a funny story about how these chickens are protected. He has the yard covered by a wire fence. He said that upon arising one morning and venturing out to check on the birds, he encountered a huge chicken hawk standing in the yard very dazed. He said the bird was wobbling around as if he had tied one on the night before. What Cousin surmised is that the creature had dive bombed the chicken yard and knocked itself silly on the wire fence.

There is an old saying about not being able to go home again. I think that sometimes we can. I am just glad I no longer have to feed chickens or watch where I step in the yard …