Chickens are stupid and vicious; there’s a reason “bird-brained” is an insult. Chickens are the only creature I have known that will perch above their own water source and shit into it. We had to clean out our chickens’ water every day because we didn’t want them to die from drinking their own shit-water. The only creatures I have seen surpass chickens in stupidity are the turkeys who will look up with their mouths open when it rains and, consequently, drown.
Chickens are just as stupid as they are vicious. A few months after getting a group of layer chickens, we bought about fifty chickens destined for the table. They were adorable yellow fluff-balls, and we partitioned the chicken coop so that they would have a safe, warm place to grow. One morning we discovered a containment breach and about a dozen adorable yellow fluff-balls with precision holes pecked into the back of their heads.
One of the layer chickens had realized that these chicks were newcomers and had gone berserk. Apparently, this is common in chickens. So the next time you see a picture of a chicken, or visit a farm and think “how quaint and lovely they are in their habitat,” remember that they are descendants of dinosaurs and our only protection is their diminutive size.
So after we, and by we I mean my mom, had decided to get the fourteen little egg-laying dinosaurs, specifically Rhode Island Reds, my brother and I were often sent to collect the eggs. Now, if you know anything about layer chickens or have ever had any, you’ll immediately realize that fourteen egg producers is far too many for a family of four. A Rhode Island Red will lay about two-hundred and sixty eggs a year. That left us with about three-thousand six-hundred and forty eggs per year, or about ten eggs a day. Every egg-sized space in our refrigerator was filled with eggs.
We tried to sell them, but there must have been something about turning down a long, blind gravel drive in a remote area that gave potential customers pause since we had few clients. We would then end up giving them to neighbors. Eventually, my dad even resorted to passing them out at work. We had so many that in spite of our efforts some would go straight to the recycling heap. Even Joey got eggs ever so often.
Who had to collect the bounty was mostly a matter of chance; my brother and I sort of took turns going in to get the eggs. The coop was dark, damp, and smelled like a nitrogen bomb, and if mom happened to assign the task to one brother, the other wasn’t going to fight it.
So it happened one day that my mother randomly picked my little brother for egg collection, probably because he was in sight and she was thinking about it. That summer day was so hot it felt like the sun had a personal vendetta against your skin, and I was tinkering with something in the shade of the big barn. I remember Gabe walking resignedly into the coop in his shorts and t-shirt. The next time I looked up he was winging his way out of the coop, his curly hair a flying mess, dread enveloping him.
You see, that day the birds had decided that the robberies would stop. They were no longer willing to surrender their eggs without a fight. When Gabe had gone in the coop, the chickens had dive-bombed him from the rafters and scratched him in a coordinated pincer movement. After the incident, he had come to me instead of going to our mom, and when I revisit the memory I think he was more afraid of reporting failure than of the attack-chickens themselves. As a sometimes protective older brother, the chicken offensive incensed me; I decided that force would be met with force.
Offensive Egg Collection
First, we gathered our weapons. We didn’t have real guns, but it was the ’90s so we had something better: a lot of Super Soakers. Largest in our arsenal was the Super Soaker 2000: a gun that looked so big and dangerous that I had to beg for it. As brothers, we each got one under the theory that this would reduce fighting. These were our bazookas. Then, we had two smaller Soakers—probably the XP110s. We filled these to capacity and pumped them as much as we could. We knew there wouldn’t be time to reload during the assault.
Next was our armour. Carhartts were the preferred work jacket of all the farmers where we lived. I’ve seen Carhartts brush past rusty nails without a single tear, push through a field of thorns like it was grass, and even survive an accidental knife strike with minimal damage. They are nearly impermeable in the harshest environments. We mostly wore them in winter; they didn’t breath well by nature and we both had the insulated kind. Still, we went to the house and put on our coveralls, jackets, boots, and balaclavas. Then, armed and armored, we sweated our way down to the coop.
The plan was simple. I would provide cover with the 2000s, while my brother would collect the eggs in a small bucket using the XP110s for defense as needed. We paused outside the coop for a final weapons check and pump before going in. I can still feel the straps of the 2000s digging into my shoulders as I struggled to carry them both.
We lined up to one side of the door like soldiers in the movie we felt we were in. My brother crouched low, ready to move deep into enemy territory, while I stood tall with my cannons. I had never felt more like Rambo than when I kicked that door open. All hell and feathers broke loose at once. A chicken dove at my face from the rafters, but I caught it with a blast that sent it spiraling into the straw floor. Another tried to peck my brother’s head, but a similar shot sent it crashing away. From then on it was a cocktail of water, feathers, and squalls as we fought our way toward the eggs. They didn’t give up the fight easily. Even when we had our prize, they launched a final, flailing attack that we barely beat back with the last of our water.
Slamming the coop door shut, we immediately shed our arms and slipped the Carhartts off our soaking skin. It was a total victory. Neither of us received any wounds, and, for those of you concerned, our non-lethal Super Soaker attack left all of the chickens uninjured but cowed. From then on, we never had another problem collecting eggs. But if you take one thing from this story, other than another paragraph in your letter to PETA, remember that if you have chickens in your backyard, they could turn into vicious little dinosaurs at the drop of a feather.