Saturday night a movie came on about the beginnings of Facebook. I had read some of the controversial reviews while it was in the theaters, and was curious to see what it was really all about. Many parts of it were very disturbing for various reasons, but there was one stupid part that made us laugh. One of the characters was a pledge for a Harvard fraternity, and one of the things he was required to do was carry a live chicken with him everywhere he went. He was in the cafeteria, and the only thing they were serving that day was chicken. He "had" to feed his chicken, so he cut his meat up into small pieces and put it in the chicken's cage. The chicken ate it. Some students saw it and became outraged that one of the Harvard Facebook founders (it was then for Harvard students only) was encouraging cannibalism and animal cruelty that it created quite a rift between its founding partners.
We laughed over that for several reasons. One, the boy wasn't smart enough to go purchase what the bird needed to eat. Two, anyone who has had chickens for a while know that they DO have some cannibalistic tendencies. Have an injured bird? Some birds will peck at it until it dies. Flies swarming over an injured bird? They'll stand around eating the flies off of it, injuring it more in the process. Have an egg that's been rolled too hard in the turning process? (Hens use the same nest and will kick the eggs around with their feet to make things more comfortable, or if they're nesting they do it to rotate the eggs and change the amount of heat the side of an egg is receiving.) When that egg cracks, the chickens will devour it...yolk, shell...all of it. Many old time farmers save the shells of eggs that they've cooked, let them dry, then grind them up to place into the hen feed as a layer nutrient. Otherwise you buy ground oyster shells and sprinkle it with their feed mixture to give them the calcium they need. Without it, you'll get a weak or shell-less egg.
So with that in mind, I come home from church Sunday to find that a hawk has feasted on one of our hens...the Welsummer to be exact (my one and only dark brown egg layer). After examining the crime scene for a little while and debating with Bobby about whether or not it actually was a hawk or the coyote the dogs were barking at the other day, we determined hawk and I grabbed a shovel to toss him in the woods. Bobby laughed at me for coming back to get the remainder of his insides (GROSS alert: hawks tend to pull out a bird's intestines and put them to side, one of the clues it was a hawk killing.) He said, "You know, the other chickens will eat that if you leave it for him." And then we both remembered the movie and started making cannibal comments. I didn't leave it there. And the reality is, they most likely would have eaten it (a chicken was already pecking the ground in that area by the time I put the shovel up).
I find it disgustingly ironic that some of the brightest and best were protesting "forced cannibalism" when any chicken owner knows chickens CAN be cannibals. It's been a while since I've been to the forum at www.backyardchickens.com , but there used to be a thread about how to deal with chickens who consistently ate their own eggs.
Lately I've not been refrigerating the fresh eggs, so I could still incubate the two remaining dark eggs I have. I really don't want to pull the thing out and start the process, but it would be neat to have at least one of its offspring. And we did buy an egg turner a few years ago, so I wouldn't have to turn the eggs 3-5 times every day. That makes the process a LOT less arduous.
So you've probably learned a lot more about chickens today than you ever cared to know. And the fact that I can not only do all this but actually write about it and not feel squeamish tells me I'm not as citified as I used to be. :)