Weatherford Democrat

April 6, 2014

NOW HEAR THIS: Getting in the chicken business


Weatherford Democrat

— By LARRY M. JONES



Anyone who is my age or older has heard the famous quote, “A chicken in every pot.” It is normally attributed to Herbert Hoover during his 1928 presidential bid.

I have heard of his quote all my life, but I recently learned that it was merely a slogan promulgated by the Republican Party during that time. Being quite disappointed by this discovery, I researched it further and found that the sneaky GOP spinmeisters plagiarized a quote made by King Henry IV of France in about 1600. Who can you trust anymore?

It’s easy to equate having a chicken in your pot as a sign of prosperity. Chickens have been a prominent source of food for civilized man for thousands of years. In the days before refrigeration, a chicken was the walking equivalent of an MRE (Meal-Ready-to-Eat) used by our armed forces. It could be stored without spoilage, was a convenient meal size, and provided a tasty and nutritious meal that could be quickly prepared. In addition, a chicken can provide as much as one egg each day.

Even today, many urban dwellers raise chickens within the city limits of some towns, although many municipalities have cracked down on the practice. With the proliferation of mini-ranchettes throughout rural areas, poultry farming has again become quite popular. It requires minimal outlay for facilities, minimal land requirements, and the end product is delicious. It’s a wonderful way to teach animal husbandry to youngsters, with minimal expense. Having a daily supply of farm fresh eggs is a real benefit of country living. In addition, these urban transplants provide great nutritional supplements to the foxes, coyotes, hoot owls and red-tailed hawks in the neighborhood.

We always had chickens when I was growing up down on the “pore farm.” Normally we kept a few dozen laying hens to supply our egg needs. This was in the days before the baby chicks were sexed to allow you to buy only roosters or hens. The baby chicks we bought each year were a mix so we would process the roosters as fryers and store them in the Parker County Frozen Food Locker in Weatherford to eat during the coming year.

As the hens grew older and past their time for egg laying, we used them for chicken and dressing. I’ll never forget when a red-tailed hawk killed one of our laying hens. My father saw it happen and ran the hawk away. In a circle around the dead chicken he placed 3 or 4 steel traps. Within two hours the hawk retuned for his prey and was caught and killed. Today, my dad would be arrested, fined, and perhaps incarcerated for such an egregious criminal act. In the 1940s it was called survival.

There hasn’t been a chicken on the “pore farm” in more than 50 years and, as long as my neighbors keep providing me with those tasty farm fresh eggs for breakfast each morning, I see no reason to change my routine.

Getting back to Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan, I heard my father mention it many times, having lived through the desperate time of the Great Depression. He said that having a chicken wasn’t the issue. They were too poor to even have a pot.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County.