Chicken Fun Alexander Manitoba

 

Chicken Fun Alexander Manitoba


(rough copy)

September 2020

There was chicken farm south of Alexander run by a good Mennonite family which means work hard and good food. They had a son and we hung out together because it was a short bicycle ride to the farm or just rode the school bus. But at 4pm it was time to do the chores which means pushing a loaded wheel barrow down the isle between the chicken cages. You went 1 length of the wheel barrow and stopped then scooped out the feed to pour it in the feed troughs. It was a workout and near the end of the isle the wheel barrow would run out of feed and you would have to go refill it. Once the feed troughs were full then you picked the eggs which took forever because there were a lot of eggs. Plus you had to have everything done by supper time at 6pm. Supper was always an eight course dinner which was all home made from the gardens to the meats. For some reason lots of egg salads and chicken were served. As we got older we did more and more around the farm from driving the farm trucks to the farm equipment. Plus you never broke the equipment because you had to fix it. We never asked for money or pay for hanging out and working but the oldest male member of the family would give you an envelope with instructions to make sure you tell your dad. In the envelope was cash money that I spent foolishly on buying things to better myself. One of the purchase was a new 8 track stereo for the shop so I could work and listen to the new release from the band Boston. Their big hit was More Than a Feeling song which sounded so good on the new Hi Fi stereo system.

In the 1970s everyone lived off the farms not the fancy super food stores of today. Back then money was tight but you had lots of time on your hands. The chicken farm always raised the new stock of laying hens in a big open barn. When the chicken were almost ready to go over to the laying barn which had the cages, the male chickens known as roosters had to be removed. Just like in human life, the male works hard and dies first. That is why all the Shady Pines Retirement Homes are 99% female residents. The removal of the roosters usually took place around the first of November. Our family and a few neighbours would get together to set up a processing area in the pink house for the roosters and the female rejects to become chicken dinners that would feed us for the winter. Dad and I would got to the chicken farm and dad was not to look or having anything to do with the killing area of the chickens because he would faint. Dad usually went else where on the farm to fix something that was broken. He would return when everything was done and drive us home. As young 8 year old kid being the first time on thinning the herd as I called it. I always called everything different from what the real terms would be so then every one knew I said it. They gave you a flash light to hold in your hand while in the dark open barn with all the free running chickens. The flash light was so you could see the roosters which had the little mohawk on the top of their heads. Plus if you seen a chicken that was walking funny or not acting normal you grabbed it too. Now you come out of a dark barn in the bright sun of a sunny November day, you are blinded right now. They take the chickens out of your hands and you head back in to get more. Of course your eyes have to adjust to the darkness again. I found it took me a lot longer to adjust to bright light then no light and I think it is because I’m colour blind. That is why I wear my trademark dark sun glasses all through my adult life. Once the herd was thinned out and the farmer was happy at the numbers. The head less chickens were divided up to those that helped out. Since the 65 Pontiac Parisienne 4 door sedan had a big trunk our share was tossed in to the trunk that we lined with plastic. If dad returned too soon he would see all the blood and faint which was no problem because I would drive us home.

Once at home at the pink house, the 65 Pontiac would be backed up to the back door and the dead chickens went in the house as the processing line needed them. It was a long day but we all had fun and dad did everything but get involved. Now the cost to process your own chickens out weighs the cost of buying a processed chicken ready to eat for the big super food stores.

With roosters and the rejects removed from the big open area barn then it was time to do the switching over. When the laying hens get too old they are removed from the cages and sent to KFC for be a family value pack meal. Then the young hens have to be taken from an open area barn and put in the just emptied cages. When we were young it was fun but as we got older the farm got bigger in the chicken operation and more people involved. Then we were teenage boys and had to work along side the young girls from the Hutterite Colony just north of Alexander was an experience. These young ladies kicked our asses because they do this all the time and are in shape. On the day to do the switch over of the chickens, we all arrive at the farm and a meal was served. The young ladies always had to sit in the van with the older male driver. They didn’t come and socialize with us because we were wearing 1980s heavy metal rock band tee shirts, had the mullet hair cuts and the dark sun glasses plus we were cool and acted cool. To them we were exactly what is written in the Bible that they worship as being the type of people to stay away from. Once the farm owners came over with the food to the chicken barn in the back of the ¾ ton farm truck. The meal was officially served as big out door picnic. Then the young ladies would come over and join us. As we acted cool, we would try and “chat up” the young ladies like the good British comedy Are You being Served because it was being aired on CBC as a re-run that we watched. The young ladies would talk very softly in their German language and we knew they were laughing at us by the way they were smiling and giggling. Once the meal was over and the empty semi trucks were all ready it was time to begin non-stop working.

There is one person that grabs the chickens out of the cages and he handed you the chickens upside down and you hold them by their ankles. Then you carry them through the barn and to the semi truck outside. You past the chickens to the fellow on the truck and he puts them in the cages for transport. Everything has to be well timed and well organized. If you get to the semi truck and there are others a head of you then you have to hold your chickens till it is your turn to hand them to the fellow to cage them. Standing there holding chickens is not great fun because you have to keep them away from your body or they will peck at your legs. You can’t hold them close to the ground because they can escape. This job is basically a triathlon race of endurance. Upper body strength, walking non stop and leg strength to climb up to the semi trailer on the stairs. Plus you have to impress the young ladies that do this all the time. When you first start carrying the chickens it takes a bit to get a complete cycle going till everything goes smoothly. The time standing there with your chickens waiting to hand them over is when the young ladies will chat with you in English. Once the cycle gets working smoothly then it is non-stop walking and carrying. Then the only rest time is when they switch out the loaded semi truck for an empty one. That is when every one drinks lots of water and has quick rest. But everyone has kept track of who lost chickens and the numbers you have lost. Now during rest time they give you the cleaning net from someone’s swimming pool because it has a long handle and you have to catch the number of chickens you lost. It seemed like us “cool guys” were always chasing and catching chickens on the break times and the young ladies were never. These young ladies just laugh at us because we were a form of entertainment for them. Plus we were just about dead and wearing next to nothing for clothes because it is so hot in the barn. They were still in full dress with their customary hats still on and never seem to sweat.

Once back to work the young ladies are lapping us on hauling the chickens because we are out of shape for being the cool tough guys that we are portraying ourselves as. The isle on the chicken barns became narrow when they switch to full automation which meant the machines do everything. The isles only had to be wide enough to walk down and the narrower the better because more cages means more chickens. I started noticing that this one young lady would always time it to meet me about ½ way down the isle when I had chickens. But never met her when I had no chickens or when she had chickens. When you meet in the isle everyone turned side ways to pass each other and it was a tight fit even if you did not have chickens in your hands. This one young lady would pass by me and make sure to rub her chest again mine and look me directly in the eye while doing this and smile. Plus she did it every time. Standing there holding my chickens and having her do this across my bare chest is something I will always remember to this day. Plus her dress would never tell if the Breast Fairy had made lots of nightly visits but the chest rubs sure did say yes. Now days this would never happen because everyone would be wearing hazmat suits and masks in the chicken barn so you would not know if the person was male or female.

It is a nice feeling when the cages in the barn are empty then we get a rest time. While they get the semi trucks out of the way and to get the cages ready for the new chickens to be hauled over. Now we are socializing with the young ladies as we relax and they are talking about chicken switches that they have done in the past and remember some of us. We slowly start to remember them as well but they all look the same being dressed the same. Now they say they are ready for the new chickens to be put in the cages which is easier because it is flat walking from barn to barn. It is nice not having to climb up stairs to the semi truck to hand the chickens over. But we all still have to pace the walk so we don’t bunch up where the chickens are being caged. Of course the young ladies lap us on the hauling which is OK now because we are almost dead and exhausted. It is so good to see the last caged filled and a meal will be served. It is another great meal as an outdoor picnic and the young ladies are laughing and joking with us on our mistakes during the day. Once the meal is done the young ladies are back in the van and heading home. We also head back home to die because we are so sore and stiff but we will do it again next year. I always wonder what these young ladies looked like naked because they must have had the prefect bodies for female athletes being all muscles.

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