Why the chicken really crossed the road

15 Apr

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I am just back from a lovely holiday in Albania complete with sun, sand, sightseeing and strange cocktails. However I have already written at length about how wonderful Albania is, so this time I think I will tell you what Albania has taught me … about chickens.

Before I continue, I should explain to any chicken fanciers reading this that there’s nothing unique about Albanian chickens, so far as I know, it’s just that I never had much exposure to chickens, or indeed any farmyard animals. My primary school teacher once let us hold some newly hatched chicks, and my family had the occasional visit to a farm during the school holidays, if we were passing one, but I’m a city girl born and raised, and I’ve mostly seen chickens in small, pale, plastic-wrapped pieces on supermarket shelves.

That changed when I lived in Albania, and especially when I married into an Albanian family. My mother-in-law keeps chickens, as do a lot of people in Albania, as long as they have a bit of garden for them to scratch around in. So let me share with you the wisdom I have gleaned about chickens so far:

1) Cocks crow all the time . I knew that cocks (or roosters, if you prefer) crowed at dawn, just like they do on cornflakes adverts. What I didn’t realise is that after they start, they don’t stop. They just keep going all day long. It’s pretty annoying if you’re trying to sleep late, or have a siesta – and I often try to do both.

2) People can recognise their own chickens. To me, one black chicken looks pretty much like another, and I assumed there was some sort of leg ringing system, or a more informal way of marking which one is yours, but apparently not. People can just look at a black chicken (or any other colour – I only give black by way of example) and tell whether it is their chicken, their neighbour’s, or a completely alien chicken. I think it must be an acquired skill. Despite a lot of peering at chickens over the last week, I still have no idea which is which.

3) Chicks are only cute for about two weeks. After that they stop being adorable little balls of fluff and turn into straggly, leggy things with half-grown feathers and a bad attitude. The males start to bully the females, which is not an attractive trait. However, chickens do produce new fluffy chicks pretty regularly, so it’s not too bad.

4) Chickens are chicken. This insult is well-founded because chickens really are scared of everything. They scuttle out of your way as if you were trying to kill them (even when you’re not), and when there was a loud bang at my husband’s cousin’s house, the chickens practically jumped into our laps. I can understand where the story of Chicken Little came from, because if anything dropped on their heads, chickens would undoubtedly be terrified enough to think that the sky was falling. This is also because…

5) Chickens are incredibly stupid. I mean so, so stupid. Especially the young ones. When they run from danger, as they so often do, they’ll as likely as not run in the wrong direction. They followed my husband’s uncle around when he was hoeing, even though one of them had already lost a toe that way. It’s no wonder they’re said to be able to live for a while without their heads – there’s nothing of worth in there anyway. And this also answers the age-old question, why did the chicken cross the road? Because it was too stupid even to realise there was a road, let alone that it would be in danger from traffic.

No doubt there is a lot more I could learn about chickens, and do feel free to inform me through the comments, if you are a chicken expert. For me though, it’s back to chickens being kept in the fridge, in pieces, until the next time I go back to Albania.

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