What Not to Feed a Chicken

The villain in my work in progress is a chicken farmer. No offense to chicken farmers. I have nothing against chicken farmers. In fact, my brother-in-law keeps chickens.

But my villain, Mazat, had to have some kind of profession, and one that my protagonist might not find completely desirable. Hence, chickens. Lots of potential for icky stinky stuff to make her life difficult, if not downright miserable.

Since I didn’t know much about chickens or their raising, I spent some time finding out. (One of my favorite parts of writing—you never know what fun stuff you’ll learn!)

Along the way, I discovered that:

Contrary to jokes about chickens crossing the road, they can move pretty fast if they want to. They’ve been clocked at 9 miles an hour.

The chicken is the closest living relative to the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There are more chickens than people in the world.

All that clucking is a language with meanings. Depending on the predator, chickens use different alarm sounds to alert the others.

If you look at a chicken’s earlobes, you can predict what color eggs it will lay. Chickens with red earlobes lay brown eggs; those with white earlobes, white eggs.

Unless the chicken in question belongs to a certain breed that lays blue or green eggs.

Younger hens will often lay misshapen eggs, until they get into a laying routine. They usually start laying eggs at about 20 weeks old.

Some breeds produce an average of an egg a day; others, one every other day or twice a week.

Chickens rarely lay eggs after dusk.

To keep the yolk from sticking to the shell, the hen will turn the egg over about 50 times a day.

Some eggs have more than one yolk. The greatest number recorded was nine.

Chickens lose their feathers when they are stressed.

They also lay fewer eggs when stressed, cold, or getting old.

As omnivores, chickens can eat both meat and vegetables. However, raw potatoes or dried beans, or raw meat can make them very sick.

And yes, chickens can fly around without a head.

It’s been well documented. In my book, Beyond the Rapids, that very thing happens when a man is too scared (I won’t say chicken) to cut the head off the bird his wife wants to eat for dinner properly. Let’s just say the result was of great amusement for the neighborhood kids.

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