My step-son Chris says he likes the stories of my past. Interesting history he says. So this post is for Chris J. of the Washington Post.
When I was 12 we moved to small farm just outside Greenwood. Both my parents grew up on farms and thus began my farming life. I joined 4-H and that began my “career as a sheep farmer.” But, also a great experience as a chicken farmer.
My dad was the manager of a feed and livestock mineral company in Indianapolis across from the Indianapolis stock yards. He was a real chicken man. Each spring his company sold thousands of baby chickens to farmers in central Indiana as well as all the “colored chicks sold in the various stores at Easter time. About 1965 keeping layers in cages was beginning to become the industry we now know as the predominate method of producing most of the eggs we enjoy today. Dad decided that we should have a chicken/egg business. So, we built a pole building and assembled and installed cages for 500 chicken. Layers if you will.
We had quite an operation. I fed the chicken and hauled the manure and gathered the eggs and washed the eggs and candled and sorted the eggs by size and packaged them. Somewhat later even my brother helped with this. We sold eggs from the house to friends and neighbors as well as to a few restaurants in the area. For my work I received I think $20.00 a week which made me pretty well off.
Laying hens will produce eggs very well for two years and then their production falls off and they must be replaced with young layers called pullets. These older chicken were usually sold to the Thompson poultry processing plant in Indianapolis. This was a major project to remove the hens form the cages and put them into chicken crate to transport to the processing plant. I was very glad we didn’t do this often because it was serious work.
One year My Uncle Ralph, mother’s oldest brother, wanted to buy some of the older hens and so one evening dad brought some crates home and we loaded, I think, 50 hens to take to Uncle Ralph and have dinner there. We were in a hurry and I broke one of the chickens leg. I showed it to dad and he said put it back and we will mess with it tomorrow. I said no! Hold the chicken and I will be right back. I ran to the house and found two Popsicle sticks and some adhesive tape and went back to the chicken house and promptly splinted the chicken’s leg and put it in the crate swearing everyone to secrecy. I did however add another chicken because I didn’t think the hen would survive.
It was almost dark when we arrived at Uncle Ralph’s and we unloaded the chickens in his chicken lot and went to house and had supper and visited awhile. Everyone kept the secret and when we left we laughed the whole way home.
A couple of weeks later mom answered the phone one evening and started laughing and finally said to me that she thought the call was for me. When I picked up the phone my Uncle started ripping me for selling him a chicken with a broken leg. It didn’t matter when I told him it was an extra chicken. I had sold him damaged goods. A chicken with a broken leg! I remember telling him that I could not believe it took him two weeks to find it, but that didn’t cut any ice.
To end the story you must remember that my Uncle Ralph was a really neat guy. I loved him and have wished many times I had been able to spend more time with him as I grew up. He was unique and was a great horse man and kept work horses almost till the end of his life. I guess that’s why I really miss not have the experience of working/farming with horses. So to conclude, until his dying days every time I was in his presence he had to raze me about selling him a chicken with a broken leg even though the chicken lived.
Thanks for listening,