Friday, December 21, 2007

Cute Chix...Not what you think!'s absolutely not what you think! It's not Girls Gone Wild. I could deal with that now, but not then, when I was innocent and young. I was digging in a drawer and found this old notepad from Demler Farms in Anaheim, a wholesale chicken vendor. The Demler family sold live chicks and chickens in Orange County. Their product, baby chicks, were called DemlerChix. My Grandfather Rosario (Chayo) had a ton of these notepads. I was lucky to find one with his writing in it.

I was lucky enough to grow up on egg ranch, the Rolling "R" ranch in Orange California. My Grandfather Rosario started the ranch, producing thousands of eggs per year for delivery throughout Orange County. His Son-in-law Rey Lozano came aboard, hence the second "R" in the Rolling "R" ranch. Growing up on the Rolling R was glorious...the freedom to roam, run and play. The people across the street had horses, our neighbor (Uncle K) grew strawberries and raised Koi in a pond on his yard. All during my life the Rolling R was the central point of gathering for all my friends and closest cousins. I loved it.

My Grandfather delivered fresh eggs to stores, individuals, markets...everywhere. His eggs were the best; people would drive for miles to our house to purchase eggs by the flat. People came from Tustin, Villa Park and Orange Park Acres...they came to our driveway to buy fresh eggs. They would walk to the end of the driveway, grab what they needed, and put money in a box. Sometimes they would stop by later and pay for what they had taken.

We had eggs or chicken every was a staple. At some point I refused to eat eggs...around age 6 or 7 I think. White meat chicken I eat reluctantly, but I refuse if it has skin. Those chickens and roosters were friends, and you don't eat friends. Chicken life is a lesson in cultural anthropology...there is a strict hieracrhy, levels of being that exist to keep everyone in line. You can tell who is where by feathers; the lowest have feathers missing. Sometimes their backs are raw and void of feathers. The higher-ups tear the feathers out of the lowers. It's a violent clash, but it keeps everyone in line...hens and roosters. Gender doesn't matter...both have levels. You get set in your place...if you are a peon, you get feathers torn outta your back.

Roosters and Hens do well to increase their numbers. Not quite rabbit-like, but leave them to their own devices and they do quite well. Every now and then my Grandfather, through some Ranch science, would know when to let a few select hens eggs grow to hatch. My cousins and friends would watch as the little chicks would push their golden beaks out of their shells and struggle to stand. Their transformation from ugly, wet, wobbly chick to cute, furry and firm chick was surprisingly quick. The lazy eggs would be placed in our incubator until they hatched. If it was especially cold, or if there were only a few lazy eggs, my Grandparents would place them in a slightly heated oven with the door a bit open. If we slept, we'd wake to the sound of little chirps. We'd fluff up their feathers to give them insulation from the cold, and put them in a nest with a hen. They would disappear under a wing, with the hen, alseep, not even knowing it had been placed there. It was rare if, in the morning, a hen did not take it as it's own.

Hens are sensitive...wind, cold, food, age and hierarchy troubles can hurt egg production. Every few months my Grandfather would have to purchase wholesale chicks for the Rolling R. They would come home in big boxes...a day or two old. They were a mass of chirping, pecking, soft and feathery yellow cuteness. We'd put our hands into the box and they would come in mass to see if you were food. The brave would peck your hand or finger and move away. They'd shake their head as if the taste was terrible and walk away. Weeks later they'd have that ugly-teenage chicken look. Half-grown tall and spindly, with half their grown-feathers. A bit of a chicken mohawk. Ugly. A far cry from their soft-cotton-ball cuteness.

I miss those days.