Chickens are an essential part of the American economy, and yet Gallus domesticus gets a bad rap. The very word “chicken” is considered an insult to many, which makes constructive dialogue about the species difficult. Have a question about chickens you’ve been too afraid to ask–that’s what Your Chicken Advisor is here for!
Dear Mr. or Ms. Chicken Advisor–
I have been living with my boyfriend “Hal” since junior year at Middlebury, now we are at NYU where I’m getting an MFA in Confessional Poetry. Hal’s mother keeps asking us when we’re going to get married and give her grandchildren, but I still have a master’s project to do that will involve a lot of introspection and casual self-harm, so I’m not quite ready to bring new human beings into the world.
Hal suggested that we invite his mother for Thanksgiving so she could see that we are happy just as we are, but he apparently hasn’t grown out of traditional sex/gender roles because he asked me to cook the turkey. I got one look at the Butterballs in the freezer at the grocery store and just about upchucked–there was no way I wanted that much meat in the house after his mother left, so I opted for chicken breasts. The whole occasion was very “fraught” for me, if you’ll allow me to use a word I’ve picked up in my master’s program.
Well, “Eugenia,” Hal’s mother, took great offense that I hadn’t made her a turkey, and I told her a turkey is just a boy chicken so what’s the difference? Before she left, she took Hal aside and told him she thought I wasn’t playing with a full canasta deck and that he should find somebody else.
Mr. or Ms. Chicken Advisor, I have looked high and low for confirmation of my belief that a chicken and a turkey are the same thing, but I guess it’s the sort of issue that is so self-evident nobody bothers to write it down anywhere. Could you send me a letter confirming this fact? I don’t want Hal to move out, I couldn’t afford the rent here by myself.
Thank you in advance,
Chloe Armbrister, Brooklyn, New York
I hate to “disabuse” you of your belief on such an important topic (to use another “MFA word”), but Hal’s mother is correct. Turkeys are members of Meleagris, a different genus than chickens, so I can understand why your choice of bird would upset someone who wanted a traditional Thanksgiving meal. I would suggest next year you cook a “tofurkey,” a healthy vegetarian-based substitute, which should end your relationship with Hal and his dingbat mother once and for all.
Tofurkey–yum! Sort of.
Dear Chicken Advisor:
We have enjoyed your column over the years and would appreciate it if you would intervene in a difference of opinion that threatens to turn into a “family feud.” Do chickens have shoulders or not? My wife Marguerite says this is the case based on “knowledge” that was handed down to her by her mother Carol, and she can’t believe I disagree with her. This sounds to me more like an old wives’ tale as both Marguerite and Carol are old wives.
My wife has agreed to abide by your decision as long as you take her side.
Clell Wills, Ottumwa, Iowa
Surprise, surprise–your mother-in-law is right, chickens do in fact have shoulders, just not (obviously) like human ones. Chicken shoulders are tucked away under their feathers at the point where their wings are attached to their bodies. If they didn’t have shoulders, their wings would fly off when they flew (and try saying that five times fast).
By the way, chicken shoulder meat (sometimes called “oyster” meat), is incredibly tender which is maybe why they insist on being so damned mysterious about the whole thing.
Dear Chicken Advisor:
Tell me I’m not crazy–I swear I saw a newspaper article a few years back about some experiment where they put red contact lenses on chickens to make them less aggressive. I would like to get a couple pairs of those and try them out on my husband Ed because once the weekend starts he is always pestering me for you-know-what, even though I have already given him two wonderful children, Ed Jr. and Bernice, who is a three-time All-District baton twirler.
I am not asking for free samples, I would pay full retail if I could find those “de-aggressivizing” contact lenses at the pharmacy.
Thank you in advance,
Augusta Berthod, Salamander Springs, Colorado
I can’t say you’re not crazy, but there was an experiment in which chickens were outfitted with red contact lenses to reduce instances where they pecked each other to death. How this works is that if a chicken can only see red, it doesn’t get all excited about causing another chicken to bleed and they stop fighting. It was bad for the poultry business to have a bunch of dead chickens around because you can’t sell a dead chicken, even though that is how most people prefer to eat them.
The solution the poultry industry came up with was to use red lights in henhouses, which tended to pacify the chickens and it might work on your husband. I wouldn’t recommend this in your case, however, as your neighbors, and your local police department might get the wrong idea.