There are stupid chickens.
Then there are really stupid chickens.
This year, we have been introduced to the really stupid kind.
For nearly a dozen years now, we have raised chickens on our rural 27 acres near Sigel in Jefferson County.
We started with five. Since then, our flocks have ebbed and flowed between 20 and 30 birds, including one or two roosters and the rest comprised of laying hens.
I have grown to like having them. Chickens tell us a lot about human behavior. Not for nothing is our language littered with chicken-related phrases, from "chickens come home to roost" to "You are chicken to do (whatever)!"
And there is no comparison between the taste and texture of same-day or day-old cooked eggs and the weeks-old varieties in grocery stores.
There is also no cost comparison, and that works in the wrong direction. I guess that each dozen of eggs costs us close to $4, more if my labor is included. My wife does not count any work of mine as "labor," but says, "It keeps him busy in retirement." So, of course, labor doesn't count, but it's still $4 or more per dozen.
Until this year, we have eaten mostly eggs, not the birds themselves. We slaughtered and cooked a few once, and decided that it's just too much plucking trouble (mnemonic apologetically acknowledged). So we have bought our eating chicken carcasses.
That is about to change.
If we are what we eat, our IQs are also about to change.
We now have 10 of the really stupid variety of chickens, called "meat birds."
This saga began with good intentions. Each spring, we replenish our flock to account for bird deaths (they just drop over on occasion) and the decreasing frequency of eggs emanating from older birds.
So we bought six brown chicks and eight white chicks, all of the egg-laying variety - we thought.
It is impossible for the uninitiated to discern much about day-old chicks. Gender and breed are artfully concealed beneath balls of yellow fluff.
Then, our balls of fluff grew - into Baby Hueys.
Graybeards among us remember Baby Huey, described by Wikipedia as a gigantic and naive duckling cartoon character of the 1950s. Do a Google search for the image. Lose the diaper. Change the coloration from yellow to white. Change the duckbill to a chicken beak.
That's what now resides inside the young-chicken condo of our chicken house: Big, white, stupid blobs with enormous breasts, dragging backsides and an inability to even walk upright for very long, let alone fly up to a roost.
We do not know which meat bird breed can claim these blobs.
But blobs they are.
"Maybe they need exercise," said my wife, about a month into the raising of these birds. Meat birds, we learned by reading about them, are usually slaughtered at between eight and 12 weeks of age. If not, they often die shortly thereafter, because they are not bred for longevity.
So we cut rectangular openings into the chicken condo. The brown pullets eagerly rushed out into the outside chicken run, sampling the green vegetation and the yummy bugs to be had there. They are going to be laying hens.
Too often, their egress and ingress was blocked by the aforementioned blobs of laying-down white dummies, staring vacantly at the light, and clustering within a foot of the chicken door, often atop each other.
We believe in treating birds humanely.
But this experience has made it clearer to me as to why the breeders of meat birds do not give their birds more exposure to the outdoors.
They seem to have bred all intelligence, curiosity, liveliness and zest of life out of these birds.
The meat birds don't even establish a pecking order, one of the most entertaining aspects of introducing new birds into an established flock of layers.
Instead of asserting themselves around each other, they gaze vacantly, generating thought of Cro-Magnon discourse: "Where food? Where water? Munch. Gulp. Burp. Poop."
That's about it.
As I age, there are things that I still am capable of doing, but that I choose to no longer do. Climbing to the tops of extension ladders is one such thing. Killing, plucking and cleaning chickens is another such thing. Those, I shall leave to my wife and to an obliging brother-in-law.
I shall continue to eat chicken. My incipient diabetes, previous heart attack and increasingly diet-conscious lifestyle practically require it.
But I now live in fear that future columns will be less lively. Here is an example of an entire column as written on a meat bird level:
"Sun shone. Got dark. I burped. Next week?"
It brings to mind another chicken-related phrase embedded in our language: "Dumb cluck."
Denny Bonavita is a former editor at newspapers in DuBois and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.