Yesterday, on a windy little country road, I found myself playing a game of chicken with…wait for it…a chicken! I’d just come ’round a bend at about 40 mph (20 mph below the posted speed limit, thankfully) and found myself hood to beak with a puffy brown hen strutting around in my lane. I fully expected that when she looked up and saw my little silver cheese-wedge of a car bearing down on her, she’d make tracks for the safety of the grassy shoulder. Not this gal. She stopped dead in her tracks and faced me head on, not the least bit ruffled by the rapidly decreasing distance between us. I nearly punched a hole through the floorboard trying to brake in time, closing my eyes at the final second in anticipation of a sickening thud and an explosion of fluffy brown feathers. The car stopped; the thud never came. I squinted one eye open, and I could see the hen’s red comb hovering just beyond the nose of the car. It was at a height that I was confident I hadn’t squished her, so I opened the other eye and idled in the middle of the road, waiting for her to brwaak in victory and parade her bad self to the shoulder. Apparently, she had not yet learned the finer points of sportsmanship, for she wouldn’t budge; I was forced to make a 90-degree turn from a complete standstill in order to swerve around her. In the rearview mirror, I could see her pivot on the spot to follow my progress, unabashedly gloating as I slunk off in defeat.
As the surge of adrenalin slowly drained away, the vision of my car eating up the limited pavement between the hen and me replayed itself on an endless loop, accompanied by a soundtrack of increasingly ridiculous questions.
- What should I have done if I had hit and killed the chicken?
- Is a chicken considered livestock, and if so, is there a law in the UK that I must find the owner and report the incident?
- If I find the owner, do I have to pay for the chicken?
- How much do chickens cost? Do I have enough cash?
- If I pay for the chicken, do I get to keep the dead body?
- If I get to keep the dead body, can I take it home for dinner?
- How does one clean a chicken?
- Do I have anything sharp enough to cut off the head and feet?
- How many feathers does a chicken have, and how long does it take to pluck one?
- How do you clean out the guts? Can you just reach in the top end, grab hold of the bottom end, and pull it all inside out on itself like peeling off a sock? (Perdue always makes everything so neat and tidy, tucked discretely away in that little plastic bag.)
- Is there going to be a lot of blood? I don’t want to have to mop up a crime scene in my white-tile kitchen.
- What will the garbage collectors think when a pile of guts and feathers comes tumbling out of my “garden waste and other compostable items” bin on Friday?
- Will the naked chicken have a big bruise where the car hit it? If so, is that part still edible?
- Fry it? Bake it? Put it in the crockpot with some wine and garlic?
- If I eat a chicken I killed with my car, is that the same as eating roadkill?
- Does that officially make me a redneck? Or worse??
Wanting to keep the answers to those questions on a strictly need-to-know basis, I very cautiously approached that fateful bend in the road today. The pavement was clear, but pecking around in the tall grass of the shoulder were my opponent and at least a dozen of her closest friends. It wasn’t clear as I inched past whether they were daring each other to reenact yesterday’s classic game of chicken, or working on their material for the ever popular “Why did the chicken cross the road?” gag, but they all looked decidedly shady.
I am fully aware that is a rooster in the photograph–I had to dig through my personal archives for a poultry picture as I was late for work yesterday and had no time to jump out of the car to snap a portrait of my feathered foe standing victoriously in the road.