Opinion Columns & Blogs

WALKER: My affiliations with chickens

I like Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms very much, and I am supportive of the Warner Robins City Council as it effectively governs one of the most dynamic cities in the South. But I must admit some disappointment in its recent action, or should I say failure to act, in making decisions concerning fowl in the International City.

Obviously, and is often the case, I had an exalted idea about my reputation in dealing with and solving, over a long period of time, problems involving chickens. It is now apparent to me that Mayor Toms did not know of my expertise. Let me put it simply: I have history with those pecking, clucking, scratching, crowing birds with that piece of red flesh on the top of their heads -- those producers of eggs and meat. Why didn’t the officials call on me for advice?

Barred Plymouth Rocks (gray and white), White Leghorns (white), White Plymouth Rocks (white), Rhode Island Reds (red), exotic fowl and cross-bred birds of a wide variety of colors -- I’ve seen them all. At least, it seems as if I’ve seen ‘em all.

Grandma had chickens. Funny thing, in retrospect, the hogs, mules and cows seemed to belong to Papa, but the chickens seemed to fall under Grandma’s control and ownership. Also, the eggs produced and the ‘egg money’ were apparently Grandma’s. That’s where I came in. I took my orders and duties relative to the chickens directly from Grandma.

“Larry, go up under the barn and see if there is a setting hen and, if so, count the eggs.” Exactly how you ‘go up under’ a barn, I don’t know. But, I do know it meant to ‘climb’ (another interesting word) under the barn and find the eggs. I did it, and let me tell you, if I had found the Confederate gold under the barn, I wouldn’t have been any more thrilled.

“Grandma, the red hen is under the barn, and she has 12 eggs,” I would dutifully report. And before long, mother red hen would proudly march out from under the barn with her little brood of yellow chicks in tow. My report was authenticated.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how all of this chicken and biddies thing comes about. Oh, I know that the big chicken that struts about, the rooster, is a male and that the little hens pecking and scratching, tending to their business, are females. And I know you can get eggs without roosters, but you can’t get biddies without roosters. But exactly how you get from eggs to chicks, I don’t know. Especially was I confused with how the roosters were always jumping on the hens, and despite my best efforts to stop this tawdry behavior, I was largely unsuccessful. I felt sorry for the hens and considered the larger roosters as big, feathered bullies. Frankly, the roosters’ behavior seemed to bother me lots more than it did the hens.

Another thing that Grandma felt strongly about was hawks. She didn’t appreciate these birds, and her instructions to me were that if I saw a hawk, to get Papa’s shotgun and “shoot ‘em.” I don’t think she was impressed with how DNR or the federal authorities or anyone else felt about this. Hawks tried to get chickens and biddies, and Grandma was protecting “her brood” and her “egg money.” I never saw a hawk get a chicken. Maybe it was because I did such a good job in defending the flock. I never hit a hawk, but I did scare two or three. At least that’s my recollection from more than 50 years ago.

I could go on and on about moving from this early stage of “chicken relationships” to grading eggs at Gray-Walker Supply with Glea Gray and Ed Thompson, to delivering eggs to Perry Super Foods, and then to taking chicken feed with Joe Hodges to Henry Cullen Talton’s store in Bonaire and G.W. Hicks’ chicken house south of Perry. Space won’t permit. So, let me simply say that I have had a long and pleasant relationship with chickens, and it has been a learning experience as to exactly how little I really know.

You know, the more I write, the less I seem to know. So I guess I’d best stay out of the “Warner Robins Chicken Controversy.” But that’s OK. I know the Warner Robins mayor and council will “do the right thing.”

Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: lwalker@whgmlaw.com.