The Wilson Story

The Bantam chicks were a completely different story. They started out as eggs with strange labels on them. Dad would record the mother and father on each egg and then place them under a “setting hen”. The eggs were collected from the mating pairs in appropriate coops and transferred to the setting hen. The setting hen was an interesting hen often observed in the white leghorn coop as a chicken that would set on other chickens eggs. Apparently they often did not produce eggs and would be culled from a normal flock but we had a good use for one or two a year. They would hatch the eggs and care for the chicks. Dad would place 12-15 eggs in a nest with a setting hen. Thus, a normal brood was 12-15 chicks. As each egg hatched the information of the eggs was recorded in dads note book and on the chick. How do you write on a chick? Oliver has a band on his leg that carries his parentage information, but we did not have banding equipment. Dad used a binary code that involved the removal of the toe nail as a one and non-removal as a zero thus he could record 256 different codes. This was my introduction to the science of binary numbers, even though I did not know what a binary number was. When all the eggs were hatched, the chicks and hen was allowed to run free around the barnyard. Thus it was common at our house to see a white leghorn with a bunch of colored chicks. The Bantam chicks were dark in color as opposed the the yellow of the white leghorn chicks. It was fun to watch the chicks around the barnyard pecking and hunting for food. They would not get to far from their adopted mother. When danger arose the little chicks would immediately run to their mother who would fluff up and cover each one of them in a great show of love and protection. The signal to call the chicks home was one loud cluck. Mom always wished that we would come like that when she called, but I guess we were not that obedient or she could not cluck just right. Care of these chick was very easy as the old setting hens knew innately just what to do.

    Dad always thought that he was a great geneticist or animal breeder. The parental information was used to evaluate parents and genetic lines.  The ultimate goal here was a good fighting rooster.  Some genetic lines were better fighters.  One year dad made more money fighting five or six roosters that all of the egg business. You made money fighting chickens by betting on your chicken. This was illegal and always occurred on Sundays.  Dad quit and got his life in order and went to the Temple. On hind sight I think that dad was a good animal breeder as proven by his chickens, horses, dogs, and even his cows, but I think that he was much better in the training and conditioning department.  He would work every rooster for so many minutes per day.  I am sure none of his friends were that dedicated. He would train the horses for saddle races like they were going to the Derby or the Belmont.  He always had a good well trained hunting dog. He even tried to train me by playing catch for hours on end, or shooting baskets with us.

    Basically we had Bantam hens and roosters and white leghorn hens. If the person sexing the baby chicks missed and a male white leghorn he became Sunday dinner. The white hens were important for eggs which we sold to the Farmers Co-op and the bantam roosters were our fighting chickens. This was an interesting barnyard to say the least.

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