Friday, January 7, 2011

STEERing Clear of Chicken-Godzilla: The Tales from a Farm Girl

You think he only crows at dawn?
For many of you, chickens are a classic and picturesque farm animal. As the sun creeps over the horizon, the iridescent rooster, shimmering in all shades of red and green, flaps to his perch on a barn roof or fence post. The hens stretch on their roosts, while the broody mothers cackle gently at their chicks. As the farm wakes up, the rooster throws back his head, and welcomes the dawn in one full-throated cockle-doodle-doo!


Dream on.

Growing up on a farm, my sister and I were the labor force for our own flock of chickens. Chickens, let me educate you, aren’t terribly intelligent. They would fall over dead in thunderstorms (from the fright) and peck at the barn wall (they liked eating red things). The persnickety hens would refuse all but one nesting box, choosing instead to sit on top of each other rather than use an open nest, and they would authoritatively peck the cats who tried to sneak scraps from the chicken treats. On second thought, maybe the cats should have received the Darwin Award.

But, even if they weren’t intelligent, chickens certainly were single-minded, and the rooster most of all. He began screaming for breakfast between 5 and 6 am, and his hoarse hollering would last the entire day. We had timid roosters who hid behind a tree at our approach, and friendly ones who would come when we called. Only one ever had a name. He was so mean that we gave him to a chicken-loving friend. One winter day, he was even too much for her, so she threw him out, into a snowbank. Although he survived the cold winter night, he lost his legs below the feathers…and became the most docile chicken she ever had. Good ole’ Stumpy.

Look at the fury!

But there is only one rooster that will forever be remembered in Rivard history.  A mammoth New Hampshire Red, whose goal was to tear life from two little egg-gathering girls. Chicken-Godzilla. My sister, Hannah, and I would creep into the chicken yard, one armed with a leaf rake, the other, with a steel pole. Back-to-back, we brandished our weapons as vigilant as any SWAT team. "Here he comes!” Godzilla would race at us, his beak snapping, ready to grab onto flesh, all the while beating his killer wings.  Our 10- and 8-year old arms weren’t very long, so we learned patience in the face of his razor-sharp spurs, until he flew close enough…then…Thwack! Swoop! RUN!! Even if we didn’t make contact, it bought us enough time to race for the chicken house, where one guarded the doors while the other quickly scooped up all the eggs. Then it was another harrowing journey out before we slammed the fence gate shut and could breathe in safety.

Or something like that.

Despite my scarring experiences with roosters, I’m eager to tell you about STEER, a unique, nation-wide organization that partners with farmers and ranchers in giving to missions (check out this cool video: ). STEER provides the start-up resources (through donors, so it’s not a loan), for farmers to purchase agricultural projects, including all types of livestock or seed. The farmer then raises or grows the product along with his or her own, and after market, the profits of the STEER project go to the missionary or one of the 80+ mission agencies of the farmer’s choice. It’s a great opportunity for 4-H projects and more! Check out the calendar tab in the menu bar to learn more about the various meetings this next week hosted by myself and Bruce Brunner, the STEER representative for Minnesota.

As a farm girl, I, of course, have been thrilled to learn of this ministry opportunity. Too bad I didn’t know about it when I was in 4-H. Maybe Chicken-Godzilla could have been useful for something.