Welcome, Kathy, to today’s Wait Lifters – Uplifting content for every kind of downtime. Summer is a time when human ingenuity turns to wonderfully peculiar celebrations. This week’s focus is on the World Hen Racing Championships in Derbyshire, England on August 5. I have long had a fondness for chickens and ducks because of their power to amuse. I already talked about ducks in February, making it time to highlight the former. 

I hope you find these offerings fun, and perhaps even useful, and welcome your feedback, including your topic suggestions and any other ideas you may have for making each issue better. ([email protected])

The Quirky Quote

Noise proves nothing. Often a hen who has laid an egg

cackles as if she had laid an asteroid. ~ Mark Twain

(But that said, most mothers can empathize.)

The Quirky Facts

The first rule, if you are planning to report on the Derbyshire, UK hen-racing championships held annually at the Barley Mow Inn in Bonsall, is to be prepared with many fowl puns. For example, the BBC reported one year that “Spring chicken Jack Allsop, aged nine, plucked an eggcellent first and second place with his birds Cooked It and Plucked It.”

Among the punny names for one year’s racers were Yolko Ono, It’s No Yolk, Pector, and Plucked Off. If two hens squabble, it’s called fowl play. If they get along, they are called good eggs who respect the pecking order.

Colette Dewhurst, the landlady of the village pub that hosts the World Hen Racing Championships in its parking lot, one year described the quirky event as both “quintessentially English” and like “a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch.” About 60 hens participate and about 600 people watch. The hens run, four to six at a time, in a narrow, mesh-fenced area about 50 feet long. (It seems to vary.) The winners in each group then compete against the others until a final winner is declared. Sometimes there is a close race to the finish line, but Mrs. Dewhurst noted, “Sometimes the chickens don't bloody move.”

I should note here that chickens can run fast. According to this article, depending on the breed, “chickens can run a mile in about six minutes and forty seconds with a top speed of nine miles per hour.” I have never heard of a chicken actually doing so, and it is probably fair to say that most of the hen owners don’t really care. But there are some, including recent winners, who spend the year in-between championships training their hens. Other owners rely on making noise and offering treats as they hang over the finish line fence.

This year’s free World Championship Hen Racing carries on a hundred-year tradition that will be Friday and include a barbecue, beer festival, and live music. Be there. It will be hilarious. (See Resources for a video and more information.)

The Quirky Observations

Part of the appeal to me of chickens is their enormous diversity and natural ability to get gussied up. For example, this Green Renaissance Facebook photo describes the Frizzle chicken at left as one with feathers that curl outward.

The Golden Polish chicken is another with fine head gear and a sleek feather pattern. You can find many more at this website and in this video.

But perhaps the most endearing chicken is the social media sensation called “The Heart Hen.” My research seems to indicate that it is an Appenzeller Spitzhauben hen, but it seems similar to the Hamburg chicken and according to the description, it may be a breed that is more than 10,000 years old that originated in China. So don’t quote me.

There is so much more to say and like about chickens than there is room for, so let me give you some teasers and sources.

  • Chickens are smart. Crows, Ravens, and African Grey Parrots (among others) may be even smarter, but chickens empathize (Being a “mother hen” really is a thing), manipulate other chickens, can perceive time, problem-solve, do basic math, recognize up to 100 people (and other birds), plus, they have excellent memories and are self-aware. How do scientists know all that? Read about it here and here.
  • Odd things are true about them. For example, the color of their eggs is determined by the color of their ear lobes. While it depends on the breed, generally, hens with red earlobes will lay brown eggs, and hens with white earlobes lay white eggs. Want more? Check out this site and this one.
  • According to the Chinese zodiac, you were born under the sign of the Rooster if your birth year was 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, or 2017. Your characteristics include being observant, hardworking, resourceful, courageous, talented, self-confident, amusing, and popular in a crowd, but sometimes annoyingly attention-seeking. Learn more here.
  • And as for which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s the egg. Read about it here.

The Featured Product – Bird Brains

Over the years I have written a lot of trivia quizzes, word games, and discussion exercises about birds and gathered them into a Visually Vibrant deck of 120 slides under the title “Bird Brains.” Let your heart and brain take flight with the gorgeous images that accompany the word game and imaginative exercises, plus trivia quizzes on Fabulous Bird Facts, bird symbolism, ostriches (the largest bird) and hummingbirds (the smallest bird). You’re going to rethink that whole bird brain thing after this one.

These Visually Vibrant Exercises (VVEs) are great for activity professionals, but also great for individuals and intergenerationally – and like Wait Lifters, great for spending the time enjoyably when you are waiting anywhere.

The Questions:

  • My first question, of course, is have you ever raised chickens or attended a chicken race? If so, please share your experiences with others.
  • But my second question is about chicken toys. Do you now or have you ever had any? Most of us are familiar with rubber chickens as a comedy gag, but there are many other possibilities. (Actually, there are many possibilities even with rubber chickens – those that squawk, glow in the dark, are squeezable stress relievers, and more) If you Google “chicken toys” you will find as many entries for enriching the environment of chickens (apparently they like xylophones) as you will for engaging children.

And the handbag and coin purse shown here are meant for fun-loving adults. I once had a battery-operated fuzzy rooster that could walk down the hall crowing in order to wake up late sleepers of any age. There are a variety of plush animal chicks, (including a plush hen with 10! fuzzy chicks) and the Archie McPhee catalog that specializes in the bizarre also has finger puppet chicken feet for doing a miniature chicken dance. What do you own?

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The Quiz – Don’t Chicken Out – You can fill in these blanks

When I want to create a quiz about idioms, I always turn to the Free Dictionary. You will find dozens on chickens here and dozens more on eggs here. I don’t think you will need the sites’ help for this quiz, but do check them out as a reminder of the richness of the English language.

Can you fill in the blank for each of these common expressions?

  1. She does what she can to look younger, but she is no _________ chicken.
  2. You call that legible? It’s nothing but chicken _________.
  3. That’ll happen when pigs fly, or chickens have _________.
  4. I can’t sleep in; I _________ with the chickens.
  5. When you mess up, eventually the chickens will come home to _________.
  6. You call that a living wage? That’s chicken _________.
  7. Putting my child in charge of the Halloween candy is like putting a _________ in charge of the chicken coop.
  8. I don’t know what to try first. It’s a chicken and _________ problem.
  9. She always stays calm, but in her situation I’d be like a chicken with my _________.
  10. If you want _________, you have to endure the cackling of hens.

The Resources

Answers to the Quiz

  1. spring
  2. scratch or scratches
  3. teeth (Chickens don’t have any.)
  4. get up, or rise
  5. roost
  6. feed
  7. fox
  8. egg
  9. head cut off
  10. eggs

My multiple goals are to amuse and inspire you, to share what I and people whom I admire are doing, to stimulate your curiosity, and spur you to action. I hope you enjoyed this offering. I welcome your feedback. ([email protected])

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