Category Archives: Chickens

Ask The Language Lady

The journalist Dave Barry once wrote a weekly humor column for the Miami Herald.  Periodically he would do a column called “Ask Mr. Language Person”.  In these columns, he would answer alleged questions from readers (who I’m quite sure were totally fictitious).  For the purposes of this post, I’m slightly co-opting Dave’s title of Mr. Language Person, but all my examples are real.

First, from an ad seen on email: “Annette Funicello dies from symptoms of multiple sclerosis”.  Is that right?  Does a person die of the symptoms of a disease, or does one die of the disease?  Perhaps one always dies from the symptoms of a disease, since if a disease had no symptoms, you couldn’t die of it, could you?  The Language Lady confesses to being mystified about this one, and any help is welcome.

Most Grammar Nazis have particular pet peeves, such as the misuse of  the words “their”, “there”, and “they’re”.  Generally, The Language Lady (henceforth known as LL) just cringes and moves on, and has no particular abuse she singles out as being more or less acceptable.  Also, with auto-correct and auto-complete on cell phones and computers, even the most scrupulous Grammar Nazi can fall prey to misspelling and usage errors.  Correcting people who make mistakes is misplaced when it might not even have been the fault of the user, takes too much energy, and besides, it’s rude.

That said, LL corrected someone on Facebook in the last week or so.  In LL’s defense, here is the backstory.  A Facebook friend of a friend type of friend (as opposed to someone you actually know, who is also your friend on Facebook) took one of those quizzes, called something like “How Well Do You Actually Speak English?” and aced it.  In a comment, she remarked that she was especially proud of knowing when to use “who” versus “whom”.  LL was highly amused, since she already knew this person has it totally backwards.  In common speech, it actually would be very rare to use “whom”.

Last week, on a post by LL, this person misused “whom” and LL corrected her.  Was LL just in a particularly snarky mood that day?  It wasn’t the misuse that got on LL’s nerves, it was the bragging and being wrong.  LL forgets the content of that particular comment, but subsequently this person posted a photo of a crying child with the caption “This is my niece ‘Janie’, whom didn’t want her picture taken”.  (LL left well enough alone, having already been rude once.)

The end result is that this person is no longer speaking to LL, and here is the difference between this person and LL.  LL would much prefer to be corrected, rather than continuing to make a damn fool of herself repeatedly.

But this is the one that takes the cake:  also seen on Facebook, a post with the caption “Shameful.  Baby birds are ground up alive to make Hellmann’s mayonnaise”.  It’s accompanied by a drawing of baby chicks being forced into an open jar of Hellmann’s, with blood dripping from the mouth of the jar.  What this SAYS is that baby birds are an ingredient in Hellmann’s mayo.  Right?

What they MEANT is that an ingredient in mayonnaise is egg.  In an egg-producing operation, male chicks are useless, because well, they can’t lay eggs.  (Of course, a few must have escaped, since without male chickens, there would be no baby chicks, male  or female.)  Actually, of course, you have to keep some male chickens around, because hens get old and eventually stop laying eggs, so you have to have males to make new female chickens.  But for the most part, males are destroyed at birth.

In this case, The Language Lady learned something.  Not that ground-up male chicks are used in mayonnaise, but that it’s possible to sex baby chicks at birth.  Large operations use chick sexers.  (Q: “Hello, what do you do for a living?” A. “I’m a chick sexer for Hellmann’s.”)

In closing, The Language Lady would like to thank her readers, without whom she might be reduced to chick sexing, while slowly dying of the symptoms of bird flu.

Surrounded by Chickens…Sort Of

What is up with all the chickens?  My most personal, up-close encounter is with the neighborhood rooster who made his appearance several months ago.  From what I can tell, he lives maybe two or three blocks away.  And you know that thing about roosters crowing at dawn?  Well, they do that, and they also crow any other time they damn well please.  Lately, he has really stepped up his game.  As Fakesister suggests, it’s spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to…you know.  The only time he doesn’t crow is in the dead of night, or when it rains.  I spend a lot of time praying for rain (or dark).  I’ve never actually seen him in person, but let’s assume he looks something like this:

Roosters are very pretty birds.  I’m not a violent person, but if he lived any closer I swear he would already be dinner.

Recently, blog friend Nancy DeMarco has been keeping us updated on the progress of Frankenchick.  Frankie, as she’s now affectionately known, was pecked mercilessly by an adult hen shortly after birth, resulting in a serious head wound and an eye that swelled shut.  Then from sitting under her Mom, some of Mom’s feathers became embedded in Frankie’s head, making her look seriously weird.  Thus,  Frankenchick.  You can read all about it here:  Nancy tells it better than I could.  But I have to add that one of the most recent developments is that Frankie has become addicted to Monterrey Jack cheese.

Two people in my office, Colleen and Kitty, decided to get chickens this year.  Kitty is an experienced chicken owner, but this would be Colleen’s first time.  Colleen is a bit on the OCD side, which is a bit of an understatement.  For instance, at work, every problem can be solved by creating a spreadsheet (except for those that can’t).  But if there’s a way, Colleen will find it.  We constantly tease her, in the very nicest way of course.  If someone brings up an issue, we say, “I know!  Let’s get Colleen to make a spreadsheet!”

The point here is that she spent weeks researching the best kinds of chickens to get, what to feed them, and how to make a cheap chicken coop.  For the latter, you can buy plans for about $5 and build a DIY A-frame coop.  For more than you probably ever wanted to know about chicken coops, here’s an example:  I don’t know how I ever lived without knowing there’s a website called

At last she felt she was ready, and Kitty told her if she would wait a couple of weeks, her mother-in-law would give her chicks for free, which is where Kitty was getting hers.  So what does Colleen do?  She goes that very weekend and buys chicks.  Another, somewhat paradoxical, OCD symptom.  Weeks and weeks of meticulous research followed by an impulsive moment where caution is thrown to the winds.

She had only one small problem, which is that the coop wasn’t built yet.  Colleen’s strategy was that if she got them, it would spur her boyfriend to go ahead and build the coop.  She could probably do it herself, but her boyfriend is a carpenter and his work would likely be sturdier than hers.  Unfortunately, like many passive-aggressive plans, that didn’t work any better than nagging.  The coop still isn’t built. (I think his excuse is something like “Honey, I have a headache”.  Plus there’s that busman’s holiday thing.  The last thing he wants to do after a full day of working construction is come home and build something.)  So the chickens are living in the house.

I can’t say I know much of anything about chickens, so I was surprised at how big they’ve grown in about 3 weeks.  She showed me a picture last week on her iPhone of a now teen-aged chicken roosting on top of a window.  And while I may not know much, I do know this:  you can’t housebreak a chicken.

So if all that weren’t enough, Saturday one of my friends posted a picture on Facebook from her back yard of–you guessed it–an A-frame chicken coop!  Her young son’s grandfather built it for him.  So you can see why I’m feeling surrounded by chickens.  I’m happy to report that I have NOT been inspired to buy any of my own.

Rita’s chicken coop



Fakename’s Animal Planet: The Neighborhood Zoo

The resident rooster crowed one day this week, pretty much non-stop, for two solid hours, from 6:30 to 8:30 A.M.  I was delighted by it.  I couldn’t help but ascribe all sorts of anthropomorphic qualities to him.  It was like he was so happy to see another day, and furthermore, he was very proud of himself.  I can’t help but believe that when I first heard him crow, he was a young rooster and just testing his voice.   Now he is in his glory.  No wonder people love roosters. 

It dawned on me this week that my cat is not the the most beautiful, loving, and unique cat on the planet.  Instead, she is a classic example of the classic cat.  In other words, she’s a control freak.  The thing is, when she eats, she only eats a few bites at a time.  Then when I try to remove the food, she suddenly gets hungry and wants a few more bites.  We repeat this several times until I finally say STEP AWAY FROM THE FOOD BOWL.  At which point she saunters away, like Fine with me.  No creature can make you feel like more of an idiot than a cat. 

I’ve saved the best for last.  I was reading at the backyard picnic table…which reminds me that I am such a creature of habit. 6:00 P.M. to 7:30 P.M.–read at picnic table.  Fend off mosquitoes, bees, spiders, and stuff squirrels are dropping on your head. 7:30 P.M.:  watch Jeopardy! on TV.  8:00 P.M.:  Check email and Facebook.  9:00 P.M.:  Watch whatever on TV, and prepare to sleep.

But on this day last week, I looked up and saw what I thought was a lizard in the basket of the birdfeeder.  It was so still I thought maybe it was a green twig…except there are no green twigs this time of year.  When I next looked up, the “twig” had moved itself to the other side of the basket, and was moving its head around, calculating.

I thought of it as if was a person who had fallen asleep in the basket of a hot air balloon, and wakes up to find himself miles in the air.  Like, Where am I?  How did I get here?  And how the hell do I get out of it?

So as I watched, the lizard extended his little neck as far as it would go over the lip of the basket and made a giant flying leap for the feeder pole.  And succeeded.  Bravo!  I said.  He  (I just use that rhetorically, could have been a she) wasted no time scurrying down the pole to the grass of Terra Firma. 

It was a mini-National Geographic Moment.  I love these little guys–the green anoles.  On the other hand, my perfect cat catches and eats them.  I hate that, but as I’ve said before, it’s like watching the real National Geographic.  One day there’s a program about cheetahs, and you’re like Go Cheetah!  Get that antelope!  The next day it’s a program about antelope, and you’re like Go Antelope!  You can outlast that cheetah! 

The most important point here is how little it takes to delight me.  When I think back to what it used to take to get my attention–I think we can condense here to say Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll–I think I have come a long way.  And in a good way.  I’m  pretty proud of myself.  Me and the rooster–we are soulmates.  I’d like to crow with him next time, and shake his talons.  Good job, Pal.

Animal Hoarding

Like “Fatal Attractions”, “Animal Hoarding” is one of those programs on Animal Planet you watch so that you can say, “At least I’m not that bad”.  It’s a bit like slowing down at the scene of a traffic accident to see if you can see any dead bodies on the road.  You don’t want to, you know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself. 

Disclaimer:  At the height of my animal ownership I had four dogs and two cats.  I began to sense that I had a certain kinship with these people, and I had to apply the brakes.  I’m now down to two dogs and one cat.  Due to attrition so to speak.  I am not in the same league with these people, however. 

One of the things animal hoarders seem to have in common is the inability to tell you how many animals they have.  That’s the first thing that separates me.  I can’t imagine not knowing where all your animals are and what they’re doing at any one given moment.  Another thing they have in common is the gradual recognition (way too late) that they have crossed a line somewhere.  That instead of “saving” the animals, they have become the very sort of people they hate.  But they don’t know how to get out of it, and how to stop. 

Each episode of Animal Hoarding tells two stories.  One last night was about a guy “Peter” who kept chickens in his house.  Roosters, mostly.  The scene at his house was like bedlam.  The crowing alone was deafening.  And although it wasn’t shown, I suspect there were lots of fights.  (Me:  Chickens?  In the house?  At least I’m not that bad.)  He did not want to give any of them up, for fear they would be killed.  Especially the roosters.  It turns out there are rescue groups, even for chickens.  The one in this episode was called “Backyard Chickens”.  Who knew? 

The other story was about a woman named “Kitten”, which just seems like a cruel joke, because her problem was cat hoarding.  Like “Peter”, she couldn’t tell you how many cats she had.  When asked, both of them said things like “Around 60–maybe 70”.  Well Kitten had a lot fewer cats than she thought she had, because some of them were dead and she didn’t even know it. 

They eventually brought in a team to take away her cats.  The team came in wearing coveralls and respirator masks and carrying shovels.  They literally shoveled out her house, and in the process they moved out all the furniture.  Under one piece of furniture, which looked like a chest of drawers or something similar, they found a live possum.  I guess cat food must be tasty to possums.  Who knew? 

It may seem that I’m making light of this, but I’m not.  Animal Planet shows a disclaimer before and during every episode which says that animal hoarding is being considered as a psychological diagnosis all its own.  Perhaps they mean for inclusion in the DSM. 

At this point, I would have to disagree.  I think animal hoarding is merely a symptom.  A response,a behavioral response, to some underlying problem we already have a name for.  Like depression. 

In Kitten’s case, they made her live cat-free for a certain period of time.  This gave her time to think, and to re-establish relationships with her family.  The carrot was that if she did well, she would get one (ONE) of her cats back.  Her favorite one.  At the end of the program, it shows the cat coming back home, and I was in tears.  Happy for her, and at the same time hoping she’d come far enough not to restart the bad path she had taken.