The Day My Mom's Leghorn Hens Got Drunk...

Life off the grid in the sixties

Years ago, when I was a preteen, my family and I lived a life off the grid long before "off the grid" was in style.

We owned 100 acres with a quaint tar paper shack that became our home. The acreage had an added bonus; an old dilapidated chicken coop located just behind the house. One could be excused for thinking our family was living in the sticks in harsh conditions, but we were proud homeowners. We loved the place. We were on top of the world. I still have fond memories of that place even though we only lived there a few years before moving to our current home.

We had lived in the city previously so we were city folk, except for Mom who had actually grown up on a farm. She was our "farm" authority. We relied on her knowledge to get us through.

She ordered some chicks for the chicken coop by mail order and dad set about repairing a home for our new arrivals. Leghorns, she called them.

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They just looked funny...

Source

Easter Chicks by the Dozen

Several weeks later, father drove to the local train station to pick up our new arrivals.

A big, low, lidded, cardboard box full of live, fluffy, yellow chicks survived the journey from Winnipeg.It was an experience for a city child to see all those yellow, peeping, balls of fluff.

Mother tended to them right away. The consummate farmer; she made sure they were hydrated and fed and not in any distress. They stayed in their box in the house to keep warm for a few days , much to my happy delight to be able to watch these adorable babies peeping away. Later, they were transferred to a smaller enclosure inside the chicken coop where they were kept until they grew feathers.

They were soon pure white gorgeous Leghorn hens.

Mother let the young hens have free range outside. They stayed around the house since they knew Mom would be coming out with grain to feed her charges. Meanwhile, they ate insects and fresh green grass and grew rapidly. The hens would return to the coop every evening to roost.

It was so great to be farmers.

Trouble Strikes

Mom warned us not to scare the hens since they might eject an egg prematurely in their fright. The premature egg would just be a leathery sac . Sure enough…there were a few leathery eggs around... because curious minds had to check out that factoid.

According to Mom (our expert), Leghorn hens besides being easily frightened were particularly prone to disease. Apparently, Leghorns were not as hardy as other breeds of poultry, so mother was sort of particular about caring for them.

Besides being fledgling chicken farmers, my parents, frugal to the bone, made a home-brewed currant wine for themselves and our occasional guests.. One visitor who slugged back a glass in haste, fooled by it’s mild and smooth flavor, had great difficulty walking once he tried to get up! He wasn't the only one to be affected by this potent brew.

One day, my mother glanced out the kitchen window horrified to discover her prized Leghorn hens had something seriously wrong with them. They were teetering past the kitchen window doing nose dives into the grass and then staggering up again wings flapping crazily.

Some had their wings spread out like something was wrong with their feet. They needed to spread those wings like tightrope walkers on a high wire. The fallen ones were having a real rough time getting back on their feet only to fall back down again They seemed to have lost their sense of direction bumping into each other and knocking themselves off their feet. We watched in horror as it appeared the entire flock was infected with some deadly virus. The entire flock was weaving around the yard and into things.

This was serious, since a disease would mean the flock was doomed if infected. Mother was rather distraught. Her entire flock destroyed.

Mystery Solved

Mom had designated a place to throw organic matter off in the bush a distance away from the house. We carried our pail there several times a day with dishwater, coffee grounds along with vegetable peels and whatever would decay.

Mother who was fastidious in her cleaning, went to empty some waste water a few hours later at her compost site. She came back looking relieved and amused. When Dad got home from work, there was considerable mirth because her chickens had discovered the fermented currants she had discarded after she had bottled her currant wine. Her prized Leghorns had gorged themselves. The Leghorns were drunk!

That was probably the first time the hens were confined to their enclosure.

I remember there were jokes about what kind of eggs we would have the next day. So, as it turns out, not one chicken died of the mysterious malady, but it sure made for a great story to tell visitors as they sat around enjoying my mother’s currant wine.


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Comments 16 comments

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 5 years ago from South Africa

I really enjoyed this story, thank you. I also grew up in a rural area with no electricity and no indoor loo. Though our climatic conditions were not anywhere near as harsh as the ones you describe.

As for drunken chickens - the only story I can share in a similar vein is of a drunken fox terrier! A friend had an apricot tree in his back garden and the fruit was so plentiful that much of it fell to the ground and fermented there. My friend's foxy would push the fermenting fruit out of the peals and gobble it up, ending the day totally blotto! I can't imagine what his head must have felt like the next day!

Love and peace

Tony


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Good morning from Canada, Tony... Ahh..nice to know someone who has a similar experience growing up! It makes one love nature and wildlife...though your wildlife is quite different!

It is amazing how animals manage to get plastered. I think that is funny with the drunken fox terrier!

I also had a dog and a pear tree that dropped fruit in the back yard. I am amazed she never managed to get blotto since she was always eating the dropped pears...she was throwing them in the air...so maybe she was a "little happy" because I wondered why she enjoyed them so much!

Thanks for sharing! Cheers!


Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Drunken chickens! Who would have thought it? Very funny!


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Lucky Cats...I guess that is why that story has had such a long life...my family always thought it was hilarious...and it was, once we got over the initial fright!

Thanks for checking it out!

Cheers!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Wonderful story! You are so right about thinking we are ordinary because our lives are ordinary to us. Your entertaining and warming story just goes to show how each of has engaging stories inside us...they just need to be grabbed up and turned into words.


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi Sally! These are the stories I love to hear from others!

They are the stories that make up a life, provide a few laughs and remain as wonderful memories.

They are just nice to share! These are the kind of stories I would share with to you if you stopped by for a visit...and you have...just wish I could give you a cup of coffee to go with the story!

Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

You make the coffee, I'll bring the stew. :) Thanks for such a lovely thought.


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Sally...that would be nice!!!


b. Malin profile image

b. Malin 5 years ago

What an interesting life you've shared... I shall enjoying reading more of your Hubs, I Loved and laughed at these memories that you have shared with us. I look forward to following you, and thanks for following me as well!


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank you b.Malin for your comments...I am glad the story made you laugh! This was an often repeated story around our family coffee breaks. It never grew "tired" from the repetition!

I will enjoy following your thought provoking writing and poems as well.

Cheers!


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 5 years ago from Central United States of America

Awesome description and sharing of your childhood. And chickens! Poor feathery dears...I can see how that story is such a family tradition! Thank you for sharing it!


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Thank you frogyfish for stopping by and reading about my family's drunk chickens! Always fun repeating the "good" stories!

Cheers!


RunAbstract profile image

RunAbstract 5 years ago from USA

I love this story! It is warm, down home, and completely interesting! Thanks for a wonderful time!


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Hi Runabstract. Thank you for the compliment! I enjoyed writing and sharing this story. I am pleased you enjoyed it as well! Thanks for dropping by! Cheers!


DrMark1961 profile image

DrMark1961 3 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

Now I know how to keep my chickens happy next time they start yelling at me. I have one question though. Do you know if egg production goes way down when the chickens end up with hangovers? Will my yard be filled with leathery eggs?


Scribenet profile image

Scribenet 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada Author

Ha,ha,ha..... I would imagine they will shun bright light and yeh, if they have a headache, leathery eggs for sure! ;)

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