You Don’t Lay, You Don’t Stay

 “You don’t lay, you don’t stay” could well be the warning for a hen on the Scheckel farm in Crawford County outside of Seneca in the 1940s and 1950s. That normal stay was about 18 months.chicken

Baby chicks arrived by mail in March. The new chickens stayed in the brooding chicken coop all summer. After about five or six months, a few eggs appeared as young pullets were starting to become layers. We Scheckel boys always looked for those first small white eggs.

In October, the pullets were transferred from the white brooding house to the permanent red chicken coop. The chicken house or chicken coop was about 200 feet east of the house and slightly downhill.

First, who stays and who is sold? The hens lay eggs all winter, spring and summer, and then sold off as stewing hens in October. A few lucky hens won a reprieve from the cooking oil.  If the bird become tough and refuses to lay its normal one egg per day, it’s off to the stewing pot.

You feel the chicken’s behind. If it is soft and spongy, that hen is a producer and continues to lay eggs. If hard and tough feeling, that bird is not carrying it weight. To track the reprieved birds, we resorted to banding. A round, wooden or plastic colored band was put on one leg of the laying hen. The banded hen stays for another six months.

Secondly, the red hen house needed to be readied. Haul off any manure, scrape the roosting 2 X 4’s clean with a paint scraper, disinfect the walls and roosts with a dark brown smelly liquid, clean the metal feed troughs, put fresh straw in the laying bins, wash out the earthenware crock that held water, and wash the windows.

Transfer day meant catching all the pullets from the brooding house and carrying them by hand to the red hen house. This kidnapping took place after dark, when the chickens supposedly were to “bed” for the night. Mom and Dad would catch the birds quietly as possible. No need to arouse the colony and spread the alarm. Each of us kids would take 2 or 3 chickens by the legs and carry them from the white brooding house to the red chicken coop. I would guess we made about 10 trips each to haul the 500 birds to their new digs.





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