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Around The Sun: A Sad Day For Chickens

Steve Harrison tells a sad tale about a heavy-handed farmer.

A young Australian visitor to Vietnam told me this story and vouched that it was true.

He said that when he was a young lad his family kept chickens and were very proud of the bounty of fresh eggs they produced.

One day his father decided to kill all the chickens which had stopped laying, intending to put them in the deep freeze, to be eaten through the winter months. He told his son to round up the birds from all parts of the farm then to bring them to him one at a time. He prepared a wooden block and sharpened an axe.

“The perfect way to find out if a chicken has stopped producing eggs is to put a finger in its parson's nose,'' he told his son. "The hole where the eggs come out. If you can put two fingers in, it is still a layer. If only one finger fits, then it has stopped laying and is ready for the chop.''

One at a time the chickens were presented to the father, who inserted his finger where the sun doesn't shine. One by one, chickens lost their heads. The pile of dead chickens grew bigger and bigger.

Towards the end of the morning the father asked his son how many chickens were left. The son said none. Not one. All of them had been chopped.

The father was shocked. Bewildered. The farm was now silent. No more clucking hens.

He found that the first of the dead hens contained eggs waiting to be layed. So did the second, the third, the fourth... How had he come to kill so many laying hens?

He was sure that the finger test was a foolproof method of checking whether or not a hen was a layer. What he had not taken into account was the size of his hands.

"My father had hands like dinner plates,'' the son told me "and each finger was the size of a sausage.''

The father never again raised chickens.

And the moral of this story? Test with a normal-sized finger, then maybe you will have more chickens to count when they hatch.

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