Because They're Chickens

I love real farmers. I love real farmers almost as much as I love real chickens. While my chickens regularly channel their inner Rhett Butler, leading us into fairly routine scenes where I play the role of Scarlett and they frankly don't give a damn, farmers take on an entirely different role, though with the same net result.

Honestly, there is truly nothing like a real farmer to make a novice, hobby farmer feel a little stupid. It might come as a surprise, but I have that kind of relationship going with the owners of our local Agway. The owners are real farmers, the kind that live on hundreds of acres and have scores of free roaming and ranging everything as well as the crops and equipment to go with it. Amy is the more social and outgoing one of the two. She is a friendly, plump, country gal, who's always seemingly happy to share her abundance of knowledge by fielding my ridiculous questions in a way that makes one think they are actually worth answering.

Her husband, however, is far more matter-of-fact and usually replies to my inquisitions in one of three ways: a simple word or two stating what apparently is quite obvious to everyone else; a quizzical look, as if wondering whether I am serious and whether he actually needs to answer followed by something that I am fairly sure is meant for mocking purposes alone; or, if I am really lucky, complete and utter silence, with the slight possibility of a grunt that I have come to believe contains everything I ever needed to know about my question.

And on a really good day, like today, I expertly extract out all three variations of "you're stupid" before going on my merry way.

Me: Good morning!

Farmer: Mornin'. (I think he might already be shaking his head at me but I assume he is happy to see me bright and early so I look past it.)

Me: Guess I should've known you guys would be open so early, you know, being a farm store and all.

Farmer: Yup.

He pulls out the two heating bases and metal waterer I had ordered in preparation for winter and sets them on the counter next to the cat food without me even mentioning them. I'm all, "Yay! He know's me! He knows who I am!" I am simply positive he feels the same sense of enthusiasm at this new point in our working relationship.

He just hides it really, really, really well.

Farmer: This all today?

Me: Oh, no, I need a bag of that……um……layer feed, um, crumble. (I can never remember exactly what he calls it…. never.)

Farmer: OK, one egg crumble. (Dang it, I was close!) That all?

Me: Yup. Thanks. Sooooo (and this is when you know it's about to go downhill) do the chickens ever burn themselves on the heating bases?

Farmer (insert quizzical look here): 

Me (after an uncomfortable silence): Or do they all huddle up next to it in order to keep warm?

Farmer: Well…..I guess if it gets really cold…they might do that. (Thinking it best not to seek clarification on whether he means burn themselves or huddle together, I move on.)

Me: So, do you do anything to prep your chickens for winter? (I have read all sorts of things about adding light that mimics the sun to rubbing petroleum jelly all over the chickens' waddles and combs so that they don't get frostbite but I decide not to mention these exact details…..)

Farmer (looking at me with his head slightly tilted to make sure I am serious; it's like he KNOWS my brain is swarming with nonsense): Nope.

Me: Do you let them out at all during the winter?

Farmer: Nope.

Me: Wow! Don't they go stir crazy in the coop all winter long?!

Farmer (sighing): I don't know, I've never asked them…….(he leans a little forward as if to let me in on some great farm secret) ……because…. they're chickens.

Have a great weekend y'all!

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