I reiterate: Chickens are vicious.
Brother Bilal, a biologist, visited us. He loves all animals and wanted to feed some mealworms to our hens.
As usual, Big Red met us at the gate, the others running behind. They were naturally expecting food, but as soon as Bilal began to toss the mealworms on the ground they turned into crazed vultures. This was my first time witnessing a piranha like feeding frenzy. Bantam Babe even got in the fray, grabbing another hen and snatching the bug right out of her mouth. I stood there with my hands closed near my stomach since I didn’t have any bugs to give them. I figured they would understand that. They did not.
Big Red jumped and pecked my hand as if to tell me I had best to drop those meal bugs NOW. Two others pecked at my foot, deliberately, purposely, painfully.
I yelled at them to stop, reminded them I was bigger than them; that I owned them. Bilal laughed and said, ‘They don’t care. They’ll eat anything.”
In that moment, with 18 chickens jumping and running, hissing and gouging, biting and scraping at the air, the ground and my feet, I suddenly understood why two toddlers that came to see the chickens with their moms absolutely refused to walk on the ground amongst them. Not only are the chickens nearly their same height, those ‘little people’ realized on a primal level what chickens really are: predators; direct descendents of raptors (of Jurassic Park fame); living breathing dino-birds. It was a revelation. Chickens don’t have feet or claws, hooves or paws. They have talons like eagles and hawks and vultures. They even have that curled talon on the back of their foot, like raptors!
I flashed back to 1967. I was ten and lived in Philadelphia. Nearly every Saturday, every kid in the city would catch a bus (sans parents) and go downtown to one of the many aptly named, “cockroach theatres” to view 2 feature films for 50 cents. One weekend we saw the 1961 movie, “Mysterious Island” based on Jules Vernes book. The funniest scene was the giant chicken trying to eat a man and two women. While the special effects and the prerequisite irritating ‘panicked female faints and can’t move’ are comical now, it’s no longer so far fetched that a chicken that big could and would eat people.
This is the scene: (begins at 5:52)
It’s true: chickens will eat anything. My great uncle, who raised 1000 chickens in the 40’s, concurs.
Another man who raises chickens professionally says the same. He even feeds them eggs on occasion but makes sure to cook them first. He says he doesn’t want them to develop a taste for raw egg in case they accidently crack one of their own. If they do, he explained, they will eat all his “merchandise.’ He also said they eat any kind of meat, to include chicken, which he also feeds them.
We often have leftover chicken, but I refuse to give them any cause it seems, well, wrong.
One morning I experimented. I fed the hens my usual mix: cut up lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, apples (a fave) and spinach (another fave) and a bit of cooked hamburger.
They reacted to the hamburger like they did with the mealworms, totally ignoring the plants. Granted, chickens are omnivores, but deep down in their genetic memory and souls they prefer meat and only meat.
A few days later, an ignorant June Bug came flying through the yard. The chickens became ‘hyenas on speed’ as they chased this poor bug all over the yard; snapping, flapping, running over each other to be the one, and only one to eat it. I’ve never seen a June Bug fly so fast. His adrenaline worked over time and none of them caught him.
Later, Muhammad found some grubs under a rock and threw them in the yard. In his words, “They went bezerk!” They acted like killer whales and cats who toss and terrorize seals and birds before they devour them. But unlike lions, they do not share. Chickens’ motto is: “One for me, and none for the rest.”
Of course, in this world, we humans rule, especially chickens. We breed them, take their eggs, butcher and eat them. They may test you (especially roosters, some breeds being more aggressive than others) to see if they can get their way. I’ve since learned a soft, but forceful kick is sometimes necessary to get them from underfoot—and a spray of water (which they hate) will scatter them like moths.
Be that as it may, the same professional chicken handler mentioned above wrote that if a person passes out in a yard of chickens–and doesn’t awaken in a reasonable amount of time–it would be a matter of minutes before the chickens begin to pull off pieces of his or her flesh. And the feast would be on. He estimated that it wouldn’t take too long (depending on how many chickens) before the only thing left of that poor person would be his or her bones.
Asiila Imani is a doula/midwife middle aged mama of two mainly homeschooled boys. She is also my auntie:-)