Chickens on strike

Chickens on strike

Posted: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 8:02 pm
By: By Lisa Smartt

Our son has his own egg business. Only one little problem. The chickens occasionally go on strike. They don’t carry little signs of protest or shout demands about better insurance benefits. Oh no. They have a far better bargaining method. They stop laying eggs. They stop providing the goods that keep the business moving. Our 18 chickens tend to provide about 15 eggs a day. Right now we’re only getting four or five. This hasn’t been the first time we’ve had to come to the bargaining table … I mean, chicken pen. How does one settle a labor dispute with 18 emotionally-charged chickens? Very carefully.
I explained our problematic labor situation to my mom one day on the phone. My mom is a rational and highly-intelligent person who grew up on a farm so I was shocked at her comment. She said calmly, “They’re unhappy about something.”
“Pardon me?”
“The chickens, they’re unhappy. Haven’t you seen that milk commercial about happy cows producing lots of good milk?”
“So how would we make them happier, Mom? I mean, how does anyone make 18 hens more satisfied with life in general?”
“Well, I suggest that you walk out to the pen and look around. If there’s too much mess on the floor of the pen, they get unhappy. If there’s not a good place to lay eggs, they get unhappy.”
We now had a mission. Think like a chicken. Our farming son cleaned out the pen, put down fresh straw, provided some extra lighting and tried to give the distraught chickens a pep talk. It worked. Within a short amount of time, he was back in the egg business.  Thankfully, he didn’t even have to install a plasma TV in the upper right hand corner of the pen.
We think the current strike is related to the dark and dreary cold weather. The hens were ecstatic and producing a record number of eggs a few weeks ago when the weather turned warm. Now that spring has decided to re-coil a bit, well, the chickens feel like we should do something about the cold weather. But here’s a newsflash, girls. We can clean your pen. We can give you fresh straw. We can even play your favorite Jason Aldean music on a CD player. But we can’t control the weather. And no, we’re not gonna install a TV so don’t bother calling Nancy Grace to complain about your living conditions. You’re chickens. You can produce eggs or you can produce chicken sandwiches for Sunday dinner. It’s your choice.
Of course, I didn’t really tell the chickens that. I’m not stupid enough to spout death threats at a group of emotionally-fragile chickens. I definitely don’t want to send them into a full-fledged depression. I mean, who doesn’t love a good omelet on a Saturday morning?
We have full confidence that the girls will start producing eggs again real soon. We haven’t verbally shamed them over their little sabbatical. We keep feeding them high-quality chicken feed and providing fresh straw. Maybe they just need a little time, a little patience, a little love and encouragement. Come to think of it, raising chickens has taught us a lot more than we expected. We haven’t just learned about chickens. We’ve learned about life.
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For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.

Published in The Messenger 3.30.11

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