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Chicken wishing

Walkin'

A couple of surprises came out of the old hen house recently.
The coop isn’t old at all, but it’s been a few seasons since the girls were spring chickens. Nevertheless, they shouldn’t be over the hill, egg-laying wise. Typically, a hen produces from five to seven years. We have six chickens, average age three-and-a-half, so we should still be making omelets and deviled eggs to our heart’s content.
Wrong.
Creation tapered off this spring and then stopped all together with the beginning of summer. It was a bit of a mystery since production typically goes up in the summer months.
While researching chickens on the internet for a previous column, I did come across one possibility. Chickens can actually be overfed, the site suggested, to the point where they will stop laying.
Keep in mind that it’s easier to list what the chickens don’t get fed than to enumerate the smorgasbord of items served up daily: coffee grounds and tea bags. This is because Sabra found an article claiming that caffeine was not good for their metabolism. As a result, grounds and bags go into the garbage instead of the compost pile. In the meantime they get everything in the world to eat from apple cores to zucchini rinds. Sabra didn’t bite on the too much food theory, however, and the buffet continues.
Then a couple weeks ago, after three-months of “henopause,” one of the old girls began to ovulate again. Happy days are here again! Seriously, you’ve never enjoyed an egg until you’ve eaten one laid yesterday. Both the whites and the yolks firm up faster in the pan, and the yolk boasts a bright color that gleams healthy.
It’s all quiches and frittatas until one of the flock gets sick, however, and that’s what happened this week in the form of the dreaded chicken malady of scaly leg mites. As you were probably discussing at the dinner table last night, scaly leg mites are microscopic insects that live underneath the scales on a chicken’s lower legs. They dig tunnels under the skin, eat tissue and excrete noxious crud. In other words, about as much fun as the political posts from all sides filling up social media like Facebook.
Speaking of bad legs, my knee went out on me a couple weeks ago and swelled up like a melon. Seems like it’s been forever since I’ve felt hale and healthy between the gout, sciatica and now a bum knee. Sucks to get old.
But I digress.
Sabra found all this out and more by reading various websites. That’s right, sites, plural, and a good dozen remedies were offered. One suggested dipping the legs in gasoline. This method intrigued me. I could take care of that while I smoked my morning cigar. What’s the worse that could happen?
This, of course, was a nonstarter.
Nope, our chicken’s leg was first washed in soapy water, rinsed and then dipped in olive oil. Is it just me, or does this sound like how one might prepare a turkey for cooking? I’m not making this up, cross my heart. Then petroleum jelly was applied and then a protective sock made of cheesecloth. If only it stopped there. Next the coop had to be cleaned and sterilized, the soiled straw transported away from the yard. Oh, and we have to monitor our own skin as these devilish little critters can be picked up by humans.
So the other night I was teetering on a step stool looking for olive oil in the high cabinet above the microwave hoping that it all hadn’t been used up. As I reached the top rung, a sharp pain went through my knee. I teetered and nearly fell. As I complained about my bum leg, Sabra walked by and suggested I stand on the other one.
Sometimes, I wish I were a chicken.