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Growing Up Out Proctor: Mail Order Chicks, Free Guinea Hens

By Gary Eller - | Mar 10, 2021

My Dad loved to eat chicken and eggs. Late one evening he got “chicken inspiration” while listening to Lonnie Glosson’s country music show on WCKY radio out of Cincinnati. Lonnie was a great radio DJ and harmonica performer, and like every other country DJ of the time, an important part of his job was to bombard listeners with beyond-the-pale advertising for everything from laxatives to bibles. One evening Lonnie pushed an unbelievable deal on baby chicks, “shipped live right to your front door.” Pap ordered a hundred chicks, figuring he would grow them to adulthood, whereupon he would slaughter and freeze most of the fifty roosters he expected to get in the shipment and keep the fifty hens as egg layers.

There was one crucial missing piece of information in the radio advertising that Pap only discovered months later. The chicks had been sorted by sex and were all roosters. Not only would he get no eggs, but he would have to kill, dress, and stuff our freezer full of a ridiculous number of noisy roosters. After the great slaughter, for the next year we got chicken for dinner pretty much every night. Maybe that explains why, sixty years later, chicken is hardly my favorite meat. My appetite for eggs is even less, perhaps because we nevertheless had them for breakfast almost every morning.

Then there was the great guinea hen fiasco. Pap knew nothing about guineas but thought they were pretty and probably tasted like chicken. One day he came home with a couple dozen guineas that one of his “friends” had given him for free. Pap figured he would catch one or two guineas a week for dinner until they were all gone. He put the guineas in our chicken coop and run, which had a chicken wire fence but no top cover.

The guinea area was located in a locust grove a few hundred feet from our house. We soon learned that the guineas avoided the chicken coop entirely, where they could have been caught easily at night, and would fly high up into the locust trees to roost at night, or when someone tried to catch them during the day. We also soon learned that guineas are obnoxiously noisy and loud, sometimes squawking late into the night. Eventually, Pap got tired of the noise and his inability to catch the guineas. He solved the problem with a Saturday morning massacre, using his shotgun to take out every one of those damnable critters perched up in the locust trees. We started getting a good night’s sleep again, and it turned out that guineas really did taste a lot like chicken. But once again we unfortunately had a huge glut of fowl (tasting like chicken) to eat.