Parental advisory: This post contains descriptions of graphic violence, a picture of an eyeball, allusions to profanity and references to bizarre medical billing codes.
I never thought of myself as henpecked, which, for you youngsters, who don’t use ancestral words (like the word ancestral), henpecked is a derogatory adjective for a man who is under the complete control of a woman. For the record, I am only under partial complete control of mine.
Henpecked also has a literal meaning, for example, if one were to actually get pecked by an actual hen, which I know to be fully plausible, because it happened to me. Now everyone knows that chickens have large brains and are highly intelligent animals, but because I am a rookie chicken farmer, the distinction between me bringing food and me as the actual food has failed to develop. Teaching it wasn’t in any of the chapters of our book on how to be experts at raising chickens so it wasn’t taught.
The other possibility is that the chickens fully appreciate the distinction, but they peck me to remind that it is wholly inconsiderate to enter the coop empty handed. Normally I don’t care. A peck on the arm or the back of the calf is startling, but is not particularly painful, and the behavior usually stops when I give the command, “Hey, don’t peck me.” Sometimes, forgetting that chickens have their own unique language, I will add that “I am not the food.”
Some weeks ago I did care about getting pecked, when the target turned out to be my left eye. Yeah, I get it: being at eye-level while surrounded by a flock of chickens is a rookie mistake. (That wasn’t in the book either.) At the time I was checking the height of the waterer--a suspended five-gallon bucket that dispenses water from below. The chickens reach up a peck at metal ball valves (called nipples) causing drops of water to be released.
As I was looking at the chicken under the waterer, I felt a sharp pain in my eye. It was very much a WWTF!, with the first W standing for “Whoa” moment, and I might have even said the words which comprise that acronym, but what I really meant was did that [expletive'n] chicken just peck me in the eye? Yes she did. The pain was not excruciating, but it was prominent and persistent enough to concern me. My bloodshot eye looked as if it had been pecked by something with sharp beak, prompting me to seek medical attention.
Long story made longer, I called my ophthalmologist friend, Gregg, who asked some questions, such as, is there a huge hole in your eye? (no) and suggested antibiotic drops for a week. I almost never take antibiotics, but I know that animals harbor some pretty weird bacteria, which don’t present a problem most of the time, but can under these sorts of circumstances. The antibiotics were outlandishly expensive and not covered by our insurance plan, but we will easily make it up by charging $23 a dozen for the first few batches of eggs.
I am not afraid of the chickens, but I do keep an eye out for--or rather I am wary of--impending transgressions. And I wear safety glasses--no joke--whenever I enter the coop. Except when I forget. And I keep my head up, which keeps me perfectly safe, at least as long as nobody reminds these potential assailants they can fly.
Out of curiosity, I checked to see if there was now a billing code for such injuries. Not long ago ICD10, a set of billing codes that are much more inclusive was mandated, mostly because our culture cannot resist any opportunity to make things more complicated and partly because there would be a lot of people out of work if there were no jobs whose purpose was to make health care providers less efficient.
Sure enough: W61.33XA. Pecked by chicken, initial encounter. Good to know they got that covered.
Photo editor's note: The author's fingers are not really that dirty. They were Photo Shopped to look dirtier so readers would consider him a more authentic farmer. Also, if they really were that dirty, good thing he used antibiotics after touching his eye with those things.
Postscript: Finally found time to publish this blog post. Full recovery with intact visual acuity. Still waiting for first egg. Still wearing safety glasses.