Chickens and Ducks and Quail. Oh My!

Back to the farm days —

Among the animals that mom and dad raised, they raised a lot of chickens.  They were not my favorite at all, they were so “messy”.   They would buy the baby chicks and they were kept on the closed in back porch type area with heat lamps on them.  I do not remember how long we had to keep them on the porch, but it seemed a while.  We constantly heard their peep, peep, peep.  They were cute, but there were so many. They would peck each other’s behinds and she had to put this medicine on them that was red and looked sort of like tar and that kept them from doing that.  In my opinion, this was gross.  As cute as they were, actually a lot about them was gross to me. As they grew, they were kept outside in their large fenced in  pen. We had two roosting houses.

I did not like to gather the eggs either.  I never liked sticking my hands under the roosting chickens or even walking in the houses. You never really knew what you would find in there.  Some of the eggs were pretty gross too.  My sister agreed to let me just carry the basket, but we could not get out of there soon enough for me!  I guess I am a wimp.  I did not even like eggs anyway.  Unless, of course, if they were in a brownie or something. I do not much care for the taste of eggs today either.

The chickens would grow up and it would be time to “harvest” them.  At least that is what I call it.  At first, it was not bad and was actually quite fun because we had duties according to age. Naturally, my little brother and I had an easy job, it was sort of cool, too.  A lot of family came out and helped at this time.  Okay, this is not meant to offend anyone, if you are please just do not read it.  It was the way of life.  The older men would get the chickens and remove their heads.  That quote about running around like a chicken with your head off is a true statement!  Those chickens took off!  My brother and I were right behind them.  Some of them ran down the hills into the woods.  So, we are weird I guess, but when you were a little kid, that was sort of fun. We chased them all around and some of them went pretty far! I am sorry, but it was also pretty odd to see, at least in a child’s eye.  Think about it, the trauma of having your head chopped off and you then take off running?  You cannot even see where you are going!  How in the world can you run and why would you even try? I was told it was a reflex/reaction, but what a horrid reflex to have. Looking back on it, what a terrible thing to witness. Our generation was probably accustomed to it, but the kids today may have nightmares from that.  I am sure we saw a lot of things back then that they would have no idea about. As a matter of fact, I am absolutely certain that I could not do half of the things that I did back then!

This part is the worst.  We carried the chickens to the ladies and they took them by the feet and dipped them into very hot water.  That smell of those wet feathers….once you smell that, you will never ever forget that smell.  It was the most unpleasant smell. You could even say it was foul….pardon the pun (f-o-w-l, haha.) To this day, sometimes when I eat chicken, I feel like I can taste that smell.  I cannot finish eating it then.  I guess this will be a lifetime issue with me. Your taste does depend on your smell as well, you know.  Researchers say 80% of the flavors we taste come from what we smell, which is why foods become relatively flavorless when our sinuses are stopped up.  I always have to explain myself when I tell someone that the chicken tastes like feathers. I have been able to “teach” my family that point, however.  When they eat the piece of chicken that I refused to eat, they can taste the difference, too. At the moment, I have not had chicken for quite some time because lately they all seem to be smelling/tasting like feathers. Here is a side note, when we were children, we use to get milk straight from the cow and there was this taste that it had that was not so great.  I am assuming the pasteurization may have taken some of that out, I do not know. Occasionally when you buy milk today, some batches have that taste in there that you can detect.  I then say this milk tastes like it came from a cow.  Try explaining that statement.  People just laugh at me. Some have said dang, hate when it tastes like it came from a cow!  Haha.  I still try to explain myself.  My family has now learned that taste too.  Haven’t you ever had a potato and it seemed you could taste the dirt?  I hope you can understand what I mean here.  Sorry about getting off track a bit, but back to the chickens… They had to dip the chicken in the water to make the plucking easier.  When I grew up and this became my task, I hated it!  That smell…..yuck.  The feathers did come out pretty easy, though, but then there were the pin feathers and they were harder to remove and you never actually got them all, not even close.

The chickens were cut up and frozen for later use.  I grew up and had to participate in this part as well. I will not go into all of the details of that, but it, for me, was not as bad as the plucking, but I really did not like this job either.  I could not stand the sounds of the popping and snapping. (When I go to the chiropractor, I tell them to try to do what they need with no “popping of my bones”.To this day they have not popped anything. This may be why I cringe when I hear people popping their knuckles.) There were many more unpleasant things about this job, but we will forego them. After harvesting, it would be quite some time before I could stomach eating chicken.  I surely did love my mother’s fried chicken, though. It was the best and my favorite meal! Well, not when you would get the occasional piece that tasted like feathers! Haha! That meal was fried chicken, gravy, mashed potatoes and corn! Most of the time, homemade biscuits accompanied the meal. However, have any of you noticed that the chicken does not taste like it did back then?  Actually none of the meat today is as good as back then.  Hamburger is the most noticeable, it does not even smell as good as it use to.

We had ducks as well, two of them.  I have no idea why.  I guess for the novelty.  They were funny, though.  We would play with them and they would follow us around.  I guess mom and dad just wanted ducks.  Is there a reason for having them?  Does anyone know about that?  Do they assist with chickens somehow? We did have fun watching them waddle around.  I just do not know what their purpose was other than being a duck. Do not get me wrong, that is purpose enough. They were snow white and absolutely beautiful!

Mom and dad loved to eat quail!  They had an opportunity to purchase some of them so they did. My brothers also hunted quail.  Remember in the old days when you would see quail and pheasants running down the road?  I cannot remember the last time I have seen a quail or a pheasant.  I wonder why that is?  I miss them being in abundance like they use to be.  Perhaps it is due to the abundance of coyotes that we do not?  Anyway, harvest day for the quail came.  Mom and dad had them captured in one of the roosting houses.  Everyone came out that day and were ready to help.  Mom opened the front door to get them but I guess my little brother had a different idea.  As they opened the front door to get some, he threw open the back door.  Quail were going everywhere! People were going everywhere after them!  I just wish all of these things could have been on video.  Such a funny sight to see.  They lost most of the quail.  Funny thing, they did not seem to be all that angry because my little brother did not get into too much trouble.  I remember mom and dad fondly telling the story in later years and just laughing and laughing about him doing that.  On the bright side, at least my brothers would have more quail to find when they went hunting!

This “harvesting” of animals was a learning experience, but I am pretty sure I would be just as good without having some of these memories.  The butcher is good enough for me. Sometimes seeing some of that stuff makes my stomach a bit queasy as well.  It is pretty neat that mom and dad dabbled in so many things. They probably would not refer to it as dabbling.  They were probably trying to make a living and feed their children.  I am sure it was an awful lot of hard work for them. In my opinion, since I was a child, life was so interesting and such fun. There was always something go on and life seemed so exciting.


chicken coop
This is one of the chicken coops/roosting house.  To the right of the picture is a huge fenced in pen.  Behind this is another roosting house.  My older and younger brother are pictured here.

9 thoughts on “Chickens and Ducks and Quail. Oh My!

  1. When I was very young, we lived on a farm in Iowa. My mother was from the city, and not used to having to decapitate chickens. My father built her a chicken “guillotine.” I don’t actually remember that, but I can just imagine…When we moved to Illinois, my brother and I complained that the eggs didn’t taste good anymore and I agree that today’s chickens don’t taste like much at all. Sounds like that was a wild time at the Hutton home!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I eat meat occasionally, but truly, I just want to be with, giggle at, and pamper animals. You have nice, fond memories there (even if much death was involved). You painted these scenes very well, I smiled when I pictured children chasing headless chickens down a hill, even though it’s sad. How’d you do that? : )

    Liked by 1 person

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