"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Chickens On The Loose

Uncle Guido is amazed that the New York Times, the American Paper of Record, could print such claptrap.  Not that it should muzzle writers about chickens, just that it should choose articles that are less idolatrous, romantic, and totally wrong headed.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/31/opinion/chickens-on-the-loose.html?_r=1&ref=opinion

Take this, for example:

On fair days, I’ve been letting the chickens have the run of the farm. I come out of the house, and the birds are waiting at the chicken-yard fence like petitioners in some Russian novel but with boundless optimism instead of resignation and despair.

We are talking about Pushkin, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy here.  Dark, brooding drama, complex, inner characters; byzantine plots and bloodlines, high passion, theatre, deep revelations and confessions.  How can this ignorant, feather-loving, dumb cluck, possibly compare the world’s dumbest creatures with characters in Russian literature?  They are soulless feather-brains, empty of anything but a reflex to peck and shit. 

Out they come, except for the hens, who are busy laying. It is a 30-bird flock of many breeds — Appenzeller, Penedesenca, Orpington, Campine.

Get it? By naming fancy German, Italian, French, and other arcane breeds (what on earth is a Penedesenca?  Feathers descending? Pendejo probably, Spanish for asshole or prick) the author tries to ennoble these corn-peckers, give them royalty or aristocratic lineage.  Imagine the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King.  There is a receiving line of coiffed and tailored counts, countesses, priests, and archbishops.  “Your Royal Highnesses, the Count and Countess of Appenzeller”, and in strut a rooster and hen, pecking, bobbing and weaving down the receiving line.

Now and then a Welsummer or a Barnevelder strolls onto the deck of the house and walks up to the sliding-glass door.

More name-dropping, oh, so casually, as though the Duke of Welsummer or the Viscount of Barnevelder just stopped by.  Actually, Barnevelder is the only reasonably accurate for a chicken.

The chickens and I and Ceilidh, the border terrier, look at each other with heads askew. The birds gaze into the house with one eye, then the other — they live in a monocular world, after all — and decide there’s nothing of interest.

What a ridiculous joke – an impertinent and totally stupid assumption.  That chickens can actually determine whether there is or is not something of interest.  Far from metaphysical inquiry, these idiot birds are only capable of seeing bits and pieces of what looks like food right in front of them.  Rather than ratiocinate, they hunt and peck.  “Wow, this tastes good”; or “That tastes like shit”, which it probably is, for if you have lived in India you will always see chickens following up the squirts of some naked kid to peck out the stray grain of rice.

Why do I like these birds so much? It’s not just the eggs and beautiful feathering, the crowing and the clucking. It’s the purposefulness of their behavior.

Purposefulness of their behavior?! OMG.  Are you kidding?  There is absolutely no purpose whatsoever to their behavior.  They were born pecking and shitting and that’s it.  There’s no ‘there’ there.  Empty pea brains not even looking for food, just coming upon it. 

A hen raking backward through winter’s duff is a professional at work.

OK, this is the biggest vanity in the article.  Chickens are professionals at work.  Where did the author ever get that notion? First she starts with ‘Chickens As Royalty’ then gets more down to earth as ‘Chickens as Lawyers’, but the only possible employment comparison is token-takers in the subway.  They hunt and peck the change put down on the worn, wooden groove, and drop down a few tokens. 

Scratch, scratch, look around for predators, and what have we here? A foraging chicken feeds itself by finding surprises everywhere.

Everything is a surprise to a chicken which, having no brain to speak of, cannot anticipate.  Oh, a grain of rice in a stool of runny shit.  Wow, what a surprise!

The world seems perfectly adjusted to their expectations, which is to say that they take the world just as it is.

No comment.  Of course chickens take the world as it is.  How else are they going to take it?  Copernican theory? Astrophysical laws? Supply and demand?

Light falls, and Ceilidh and I go out to do chores. I feed the horses and the chickens run around looking for spilled grain and hay-seeds. Everywhere, there are signs of their raking, patches of leaves and plant-litter overturned. Before long, the birds are back in their yard, vanishing up the ramp to their house, all but the roosters, who keep a wary eye out until the flock is in.

This is simply too much.  What a romantic fairytale.  A dumb chicken climbing up the tresses of Goldilocks.  A chicken turned into a prince.  This woman is totally nuts. I am cancelling my subscription to the New York Times.

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