My Chickens Are Smarter Than Animal Rights Activists

It’s county fair season here the wild parts of America, which means farm animals, tractor pulls, goat races, games, fair food, rides, and good old American small town entertainment.

My wife and daughter are active in 4H, and they’re helping staff the poultry tent this week, as they do every year. My daughter wouldn’t miss one minute of it.

All of the animal tents are run by 4H, which is for kids 18 years old and under who love, raise, care for, and show their animals. Their function at the county fair is to teach. They expose adults and children to animals and help them understand them. Kids come from far away, and some of them have never seen a cow or a goat or a chicken up close. That connection to animals and the sources of food is important.

Every chicken in that poultry tent was hand-raised by a child, many of them since they were just eggs in an incubator. In fact, a number of new chicks are being hatched right now. These little fluffballs were born last night:

chicksIn short, 4H teaches and promotes care for and love of animals.

So imagine their surprise last night when their tent was invaded by chanting, obnoxious “animal rights” activists who harassed the children and guests, laid down to block the aisles, and generally made a nuisances of themselves. Our 4H leader saw one of them pulling out fake blood and stepped between the nutball and the children. The “blood” wound up hitting her. She’s still trying to get it off her phone.

My wife went for the police, because although people are allowed to protest, they’re not allowed to harass or assault. The first uniformed people she found were ASPCA officers, so you had the spectacle of fake animals right activists being chased off by real animal rights activists. The ASPCA does more for animals in a day than these pests or PETA will ever do. (And, to be fair, my wife was informed that the PETA protesters at the fair were professional and polite, which means this group was worse than PETA.)

The most fabulously hilarious part was what one of the loons was yelling: “How can you look these birds in the eye and steal their eggs?!

Do they even realize that a) a healthy chicken will lay an egg about every 24 hours, and b) these eggs are not fertilized since most people don’t keep roosters? What do they think a chicken with a sterile egg is going to do with it? It would rot, burst, stink, and make them sick if left alone.

I can only imagine what was going through their little bird brains (the chickens, not the protesters) while they witnessed this: “You idiots! We’re hand raised by loving children and fed on a diet of watermelon, mealworms, and hugs! Get the hell out of here before you ruin everything!” (And, no, the kids don’t kiss chickens because they’re not idiots.)

Without human intervention (coops, runs, fences), a chicken would be killed within 24 hours. Our area is full of chicken predators: opossums, raccoons, foxes, coyotes.

Do they protest the foxes, I wonder? No?

And I bet they would not care one bit that abortionists rip apart unborn children in order to sell their body parts. They care more about unfertilized eggs than fertile women or unborn children.

Look, the kind of person who does things like this fits a particular profile. They’re ignorant, self-involved, vain zealots whose actions say only one thing: “Pay attention to me! Pay attention to me!”

My chickens laugh at them.




A 2,000-Year-Old Eggshell

Eggs are very important at Casa McD, so I was tickled to see this amazing discovery from Turkey: a nearly-intact eggshell from about 17 AD.

The town of Sardis had been hit by an earthquake, and when residents rebuilt, they buried a pierced egg in a pot to ward off further dangers. The intact egg and pot were discovered in situ during a dig last year.

The Roman historian Pliny wrote about how people would immediately break or pierce the shells of eggs with a spoon after eating them to ward off evil spells. Eggshells were also put inside “demon traps” buried in modern-day Iraq and Iran to lure and disarm malevolent forces, Raubolt explained. And sometimes, whole eggs were buried at someone’s gate to put a curse on that person.

“You can imagine how nice it smelled after a while,” Raubolt said.

With those precedents in mind, Raubolt thinks the eggshells at Sardis served as a way to protect the people in this building from evil forces, including future earthquakes, and maybe even curses cast by others.

Verily, My Chickens Are in the Pan Used For Making Bread …

and they are indeed using their beaks to peck out the remaining dough in said pan. And no, granny’s dog does not bite.

Since I’m still sick, blogging will remain a bit light. Here’s the last post I did with chicken updates. As you can see below, they’re growing into mighty protein factories.

Dolly gets her beak rubbed. She finds it soothing.

Carrie & Loretta, watched over by Bella

Diamond (right) teaches Loretta just who’s boss.

Chicken Progress Report [Photo Post]

The new batch is growing quite nicely. They’re changing from little balls of fuzz into perching, flying (yes, chickens can fly), feathered fowl.

(l to r) Loretta, Dolly, Carrie

Carrie at 1 week (or so)

Almost 1 week later: notice the wings beginning to feather

Another week, more feathers

Bella the Chicken Dog inspects her charges

Also, Ruby the Wonder Chicken is doing poorly. She’s been in the house with an impacted crop. We let her out of the cage now and then, and the chicks are fascinated.

Ruby meets the next generation. She fascinated them.


Habemus Pullum!: New Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

This isn’t a full return to the Monday Morning Chicken days of yore, but it is Monday, and it’s sorta morningish, so make of it what you will.

The fact is: habemus pullum! (Yeah, I’m sure I declined that one wrong. Look, I was a straight-C student in Latin. Gimme a break.)[NOTE: Maggie D. says I used the singular instead of the plural. It should be pullos. I’m not changing it so that my shame may endure for all to see.]

It’s March, and March is time for the new chickens to make their debut on the world stage. Hatched just last week are the three new additions to our coop.

First, we have the one who appears to be our alpha chick: Loretta, the Barred Rock.

“I was born a coal miner’s daughter.”

She’s a feisty ball of fire who likes perching, chasing other chickens, and long walks on the beach. Her favorite musical artist is probably Jimmy Buffett.

And here’s Carrie, the Golden Hubbard Comet:

“The sum of the square root of two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the third side.”

Carrie is our Velma: the bookish, quiet member of the flock. Imagine her wearing glasses and carrying a volume of Proust. Her favorite musical artist is probably Bach. Carry is also a sex-link, which sounds like it should something wild and interesting, but in fact it just means that the hens and the roosters are different colors at hatching, so we know we’re not getting a useless, noisy, aggressive rooster. Helpful!

Finally, we have Dolly, our Buff Orpington:


She’s our affectionate, happy-go-lucky chick. She likes Harry Potter, drawing, and watching old movies. He favorite music is Taylor Swift. She also likes sleeping on my chest.

Awww! Now I can never eat you! Clevah gurl!

And here’s Dolly and Carrie doing their imitation of the Roc from 7th Voyage of Sinbad:

Yes, they’re all named after country singers. (I was lobbying for Emmylou rather than Carrie.) So far, they’ve been true to their names: they just never stop singing. Truly, if we could translate their peeping, they would probably be singing about the rooster what done them wrong.

Oh, and we got a hamster too. Her name is Bertie (as in Wooster):

“Jeeves! You must help me or I shall have to marry Madeleine Basset!”

Benedict, Dante, and Chickens

You cannot leave one place without entering another. Yesterday was a day of beginnings and endings. As I watched papa Bene recede from the balcony of Castelgandolfo, I realized it was possible I’d never see him again in this world. There’s sadness in that, but as some of my fellow Catholic bloggers and I kicked around our thoughts about the day’s events on a radio round table with Sheila Liaugminas, we talked about how this sadness is momentary, but the gifts Benedict left behind will stand forever.

Sorrow is fleeting, and joy–which is the thing drawing us toward beatitude: which indeed is beatitude–is eternal. Pain passes away. Its passing is not easy, and we cannot simply shrug it off. I’ve been witness to enough suffering to know that much. But even suffering which lasts a lifetime does end. And when it does, something new is born.

The Church endures in the only way it can: through new growth. The seat is filled by another, as it always has been, and always shall be.  There’s something unsettling in that, but also something exciting. As I watched the live feed of the helicopter flying over Rome, I snapped this screen shot:

There it is: all in one image. The ruins of the Colosseum, where savage entertainments once were offered to a bored populace, and the blood of Christians soaked the sand. And there, high above, the man who represents the idea that made–and still makes–the powerful and worldly and “smart” tremble. Triumph.

Remember that image and what it tells us: we will always triumph. That triumph may force us through pain and suffering and darkness, but triumph we will. The world is spitting its venom at us right now, with each commentator and reporter trying to top the last for ignorance and hatred. Big deal. They always did.  They always will. Humanity nailed its own Creator to a tree. Everything else is pretty small potatoes.

Because that wasn’t the end of the story. It was only the beginning.

I can show you why yesterday was a day of mixed emotions here at Casa McD. Say hi to Dolly:

It’s like she’s staring right into your soul.

She’s a two day old Buff Orpington chick: one of the three we’re adding to our flock of chickens. She arrived here as Benedict departed, and was cheeping madly as he boarded his helicopter and ordered the pilot, “Once around the dome and home for tea.”

No, I’m not comparing the Holy Father to a chicken. I’m saying that life is always beginning again: either bursting up through the dirt, or cracking out of its shell, or crying in the harsh light of a hospital delivery room. The Church has to renew as well. The Old Peter steps down. The New Peter steps up. We don’t mourn that. We celebrate it.

It’s there in the epigram for Dante’s great forgotten love poem. It is the way he described his own emotional rebirth, and something we need to keep in mind in the weeks ahead: incipit vita nova.

Here beginneth the new life.

Thanks, Y’all

I’ve never been one of those folks who, come Thanksgiving, likes to make lists of all the things for which I’m thankful. I just kind of think of them and rhetorically wave in their general direction and give a thumbs up. 

See, there are all kinds of things I like, such as good food, beer, and wine; watching old movies; music; theology/philosophy; games; and the other things I do or experience that provide life with its little pleasures and, sometimes, a bit of insight into the divine order.

But when you’re talking about real thankfulness, there’s a debt involved, and usually a debt that cannot be repaid. If you can easily say “thank you” for something, it’s probably not rising to the level of a real debt. You can thank someone for a good meal or a gift or a ride to the airport, but can you thank them for love, or faith, or hope? It’s possible, but “thanks” really doesn’t cover it, does it? The debt goes deeper than that.

Patheos asked us to consider writing thanksgiving posts about people who have nurtured our faith, something I was reminded of this morning by Joanne McPortland’s excellent post. Sadly, I don’t really have a spiritual mentor, or some one person who was key to my spiritual development, and I’m sure I’m the poorer for it. I’m a borderline hermit, and my Christianity is a very solitary experience most times, publicly limited to worship and teaching and the occasional bar fight. My journey is more like a series of encounters with people and things that have led me to a deeper appreciation of Christ in the world, and I’m thankful for all of them. Here are a few.

My Wife

I’m going to contradict myself right at the outset. I said you can’t thank people for something like love, but I often say, “Thanks for being my wife.” It can be awkward when I say it to strangers in the grocery store, but when I say it to the woman I married 22 years ago this month, I really mean it. She was the answer to a prayer: “Please help be find someone to love.” That prayer was answered when I was 18, and I promptly thanked God for this fathomless gift by turning my back on him and functionally lapsing from the faith for 15 years. It helps that she is a saint: patient, kind, giving, gentle: all things good. I was a lost soul when I found her, and I’d be dead without her. That’s not figuratively dead: I mean it literally. I was on a downward spiral to ruin, and she saved me. There is no thanks good enough for her.

My Kids

Note: Five Guys Dude is not one of my children.

It’s a cliche, but one that bears constant repeating: you don’t really understand life or your purpose in the world until you have kids. I am on this earth not to leave behind some great book or make a pile of money or die with more toys than the next guy. I am on this earth to raise a boy and a girl in such a way that one day, many decades after I’m dead and buried, they themselves will come to glory in God. My wife tells the parents of her first communicants that their purpose is not to get kids through school or into college or even to make them happy and healthy and wealthy. Their purpose as parents is to get their kids to heaven. We’re playing a long game, here, and the prize is eternity. My children keep me focused on that goal, and thus on the meaning of life itself.

Psoriatic Arthritis

Oh dear, does it suck. Yes indeed. It’s agonizing. It crippled me. It left me broken and wounded. And in that broken state, I finally crashed through my own pride and hubris and was able to touch the face of God. Pain is, as CS Lewis said, God’s megaphone. In my utter ruin, I was finally able to find the way back to the faith of my childhood. I had an encounter with the living God that left me with no doubt at all about His existence. Suffering was a gift.


It’s also a gift that you really, really don’t want, so I’m thankful for remission.


Since I began working on a masters, I have had 18 solid months of no reading other than theology. I finally snapped, and made some time for a first love: books and literature. Victorian novels. Poetry. Stories. Not too much right now since time is limited, but enough to renew my soul a bit. The written word is sacred. Scripture was a gift of the undiluted guidance of the Holy Spirit. Shakespeare, Yeats, Dickens, Chesterton, Eliot, and others were also given a gift of the Spirit, albeit it in a lesser form than Holy Writ. We find God there as well.


The more I see of the world, our country, our leaders, our politics, our businesses, our economy, and all the other messes we’ve made, the more I retreat to the pleasures of home and faith and community. When you turn away from the meaningless noise of the world, you find wisdom in the simple places.  Earlier this year, we started keeping chickens. Three chicks, bought locally and hand-raised. Chickens are beautiful, friendly, and useful. They add immense richness to our lives. Just changing their water, filling their feeder, and freshening their straw and bedding becomes an act of communion with God’s creatures. It brings us closer to the source of our food, and gives us joy at the same time. I try to let them out of their run for a little while each day, so they can scratch around for bugs and get chased by the dog. I usually bring a book or an iPad along to get some reading done while I wait (we have to stay with them because of the hawks), but I usually just wind up watching them. It’s all very zen, as they do their little scratch-scratch-backstep dance while looking for food. There’s a simple wonder in a freshly laid egg: a tasty little microcosm of creation.


I know people get all kinds of cranky about bloggers: they don’t like them spouting off, they don’t like the idea of people speaking for the Catholic Brand without proper oversight, and they don’t like the contentiousness of the comboxes. Me neither! But … the online Catholic community has provided a vital lifeline to my faith for me. Informing (and sometimes misinforming), challenging, connecting, amusing, angering: all of it is useful. Something is happening with the faith and the internet. I’m not sure what it is, and like many things in the Church it will take a century or so to figure it out, but the Catholic blogosphere has created a small but vital little fire inside the Church. Remember: there my not be many bloggers and readers compared to the millions in the Church, but each is likely to be more engaged in their parishes than someone who doesn’t connect with other Catholics online. We take those online encounters with us into our ministries. It’s affected me, and I have to imagine it’s affected others.



Hot damn, do I love this Church. Everything from its weirdos and disaffected souls to its ancient rituals and odd byways. And the biggest love of all is just one word: truth. I love it because I love the truth. I sought the truth everywhere for years. I looked in the most unlikely places, and then I found it in the place I least expected to find it: in the place I least wanted to find it: the Church of my childhood. I was out of the Church! I was free! I didn’t want to go back. I was dragged back by a God who wouldn’t give up on me. And I found it and fell in love for the first time for a simple reason: it’s true. It can be beautiful and profound and moving and grand and all those things, and it wouldn’t matter. And it can be squalid and frustrating and awkward and irritating and all those things, and it wouldn’t matter. Only one thing matters, and it was the greatest shock of all: it was true. At the end of my exploring, after years of wandering and pain, I wound up back where I began, and knew it for the first time.


In your face agricultural-industrial complex!

It took five months, about $600, and daily work, but two of our birds just laid their first eggs. These are the small eggs they lay when they start, but they’ll get bigger as the birds get older. Diamond and Ruby are the stars of the day: Amber is still slacking off, but we expect her to start producing any day now. (I keep a KFC bucket by the coop to remind them what happens to birds wot don’t produce.)

As for the cost, the folks in our 4H club introduced me to the idea of Chicken Math: the first egg costs about $600. Every egg after that is free.

Monday Morning Chicken: Protest Edition

This is Diamond, enjoying an extra side of “hate” with today’s Monday Morning Chicken. (Because we’re all about the “hate“.)

Memo to the gay “marriage” militants: you’ve officially jumped the shark. When you attempt to transform a perfectly mild statement of support for traditional marriage–an opinion held by every rational human on the planet for a few thousands years, and barely even broached in mainstream discourse until about a decade ago–into evidence of “hate” that must be punished, you’ve admitted that intelligent discourse no longer has any role in your movement. Continue reading