Make us your home page
Instagram

At the Hernando County Fair, the wisdom of chickens

I found an online forum that asked just the question I had in mind — "What is the average brain size of a chicken?" — and provided a perfectly satisfactory answer:

"Very small.''

Isn't that all we need to know about creatures that scientists recently revealed, to nobody's surprise, are one of the dinosaur's closest modern relatives?

As a matter of fact, it is not, said Kierstin Doyle, 9, of Brooksville.

Kierstin's name didn't appear on any of the entries at the Hernando County Fair's youth poultry show. But she's from a chicken-raising family and, walking down the line of cages Wednesday morning, she pointed to the birds she had helped feed, water and name.

Two of them are Polish frizzles, a breed with feathers that grow out and forward, as though their rumps are pointed into a gale.

Kierstin named the reddish, or "buff,'' hen Rusty. Her white counterpart — which went on to win a best-of-show award for Kierstin's 6-year-old sister, Constance — is called Crystal.

Agriculture people usually name only animals they especially like, and Rusty, Kierstin said, is her favorite.

"She's really, really docile,'' Kierstin said. "I think she likes being held because she'll just sit there and let me do it.''

Kierstin, whose parents keep about 40 chickens, said she notices that a lot of them have distinct personalities. Some go crazy when she feeds them leftover grits, and one of their hens clucks excitedly at the sight of Kierstin's grandfather.

Why is that? I asked. Because he gives her a lot of attention?

"No, because he gives her beer,'' Kierstin said.

Kierstin reminded me of my own oldest son, who raises hens for the eggs and who would no more consider eating one of his buff Orpingtons than he would our ginger tabby.

Then there's my youngest, for whom a plate of hot wings presents roughly the same ethical quandary as bag of popcorn. Like most children — or most Americans, really — he hasn't had to think about where his food comes from.

That's one reason Wednesday morning in the livestock barn was a lot more pleasant and rewarding than the midway mob scene of Ten Buck Tuesday.

The barn was shady, cool and smelled of sawdust and hosed-down concrete. Steers dozed, roosters crowed and all around was the reassuring sight of kids taking responsibility — carrying feed buckets and brushing livestock.

Not all them are like Kierstin, who looked horrified when her father, Ron, talked about one of the family's turkeys that's "going to be our Thanksgiving.''

We don't have to hug or name our animals, or refuse to eat them. But all these young people will learn that chickens are not entirely brainless and that pork chops come from an animal as smart as a dog. They'll learn respect, in other words, which should make them more receptive to a lesson I wish 4-H and FFA would push a little harder: that the livestock in this country deserves better than the abysmal treatment that, by and large, it receives.

Constance isn't like her sister. She shook her head no when I asked her if she had any trouble eating her family's chickens, or chickens in general. Having cared for them, she's got a lot more right to that decision than most of us.

At the Hernando County Fair, the wisdom of chickens 04/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 9, 2009 7:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  2. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax-cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]
  3. FBI probes fraudster's alleged church scam following Tampa Bay Times report

    Real Estate

    PLANT CITY — Once again, the FBI is investigating felon fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao.

    The FBI is investigating convicted mortgage fraudster Victor Thomas Clavizzao on new allegations following a Tampa Bay Times report.
[TImes file photo]

  4. Tampa Bay is ground-zero for assignment of benefits cases over broken auto glass

    Banking

    When Rachel Thorpe tried to renew her auto insurance last year for her Toyta RAV4, she was stunned to see her monthly premium had nearly doubled to $600. The Sarasota driver was baffled since her only recent claim was over a broken windshield.

    Auto glass lawsuits filed by a third party (through what's known as assignment of benefits) are skyrocketing in Tampa Bay.
[Times file photo]
  5. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America

    Tourism

    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

    This May 18, 2017 photo shows Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla. Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. [Chris O'Meara | Associated Press]