Friday, March 27, 2015

Chicken Ears Are Not Mushrooms

Have you ever tried to find a chicken ear?  When I asked Jamie this questions, he said "what is that, some sort of mushroom?"  Ha!  No, that's not what I'm talking about.    

I mean, have you ever really tried to look inside a chicken's ear?  Probably not.  Probably, most of us have never even considered chicken ears.  I've heard some good jokes about chicken lips, and after my recent adventures butchering chickens I'm pretty familiar with the rest of a chicken's anatomy, but I have to admit, chicken ears were new territory for me.  

I only became aware of the difficulty in locating a chicken's ears because one day, as I was sitting on the step to the outbuilding, watching Helen and Mrs. Hall eat their breakfast, like I do, I noticed that Helen was staggering a little.  She seemed sort of dizzy to me, which goes to show how much time I've spent watching chickens eat, I guess.  I looked on the interweb for reasons an otherwise healthy chicken would be staggering like a drunk, and found the suggestion that there could be a foreign object in her ear.  The recommendation was to look in her ears and see if there was a stick or some dirt.  Okay.  Sure.  

I picked Helen up to check in her ears and then was embarrassed to realize that I had no idea where her ears were.  I probed around on her head looking in all the weird flaps of chicken skin and under feathers and couldn't find anything that looked like an ear.  She was losing patience with my fumbling and wouldn't hold still for the examination.  Defeated, I watched a YouTube video on how to do it.  See that patch of feathers on June face, in the picture above, just below and to the left of her eye?  There's a ear in there, under a flap of feathers, and unless I'm imagining things, chickens can control those feathers so that under the threat of an ear exam, they can batten down the hatches.  

I did eventually get to investigate Helen's ears, but it was not the smooth operation that I saw on YouTube. Helen did not just stand there and let me look under her ear flap. In the video I watched, which can be viewed here, the chicken whisperer just casually peels aside the feathers on the unrestrained chicken to reveal the ear hole.  I've been envious of these chicken wrangling skills.  

Recently, I was sitting on the edge of the back porch when June perched beside me to preen her feathers.  She was calm, and didn't mind when I stroked her back and wings.  Maybe this is my chance to peak inside a chicken ear like a professional chicken handler.  Nice chicken...

Pretty chicken... see, I'm just gently petting your neck feathers... easy...

Good girl!  It's no big deal, June, I'm just going to use my finger to pet your ear feathers, so hold still...

EEEeuUUrrrp!?! (which means Back off, Food Lady! No touchy!  in chicken language).  

June seemed very insulted by my invasion of her ear flaps and kept turning her head so fast I'm pretty sure she got her eye poked by my finger.  I gave up, and apologized.  

After June went off to complain to Mrs. Hall about my rude behavior, Pork Fat became the next target of my chicken ear hunt.  She doesn't mind being handled, so I put her upside down in my lap and tried again to find a chicken ear. 

I'm pretty sure she has ears, since she responds to calls, but boy, are they hard to find under all those side burns.  And she is very wiggly, even when upside down!  I don't have the skills to reveal the ear and photograph it.  My admiration for the person in the video just keeps going up and up.  It's good to have life goals, though, so I'm not giving up.  Someday...

Mrs. Hall did not escape my attention, and while I was playing chicken doctor anyway, I used scissors to trim the feathers on her backside so that we can, hopefully, avoid the disgusting fly strike scenario that we endured twice last summer.  Butt feather trimming is something that I've been threatening, but hadn't mustered the courage to try until now.  It really wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I just clamped her upside down between my knees and quickly clipped away any feathers that looked in danger of getting dirty.  I took a picture of us in the act, but then quickly deleted it when I reviewed my photos.   There are some things that even I think should not be shared with the world!  I thought Mrs. Hall would hold it against me, but once I put her right side up, she went back to eating grass like nothing had ever happened.    

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