QUAERITUR: Blessing chickens

From a reader:

I’m planning on hatching chickens in the next couple of weeks. I’m using shipped eggs which have a higher mortality rate from being through the mail system. (but I simply can’t get what I want locally) Is there a blessing for hatching eggs? These poor little chooks are going to need every advantage they can get.

It is good that you made the distinction about “hatching”.  More on that below.

There is in the old Rituale Romanum the Benedictio volucrum, a Blessing of Fowl.

After the usual introduction, the priest continues with Old Testament images so common to blessings,  as in (not my translation) …

Among the many created species which thy bounty prompted to bestow for man’s use, thou didst also bring forth winged creatures from the waters.  With these, Noe, in coming form from the ark, rendered thee a pleasing burnt offering.  And in Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, thou didst order through Moses, thy servant, that the people should ear the birds of the air, separating the clean from the unclean…

The older Rituale Romanum and its abbreviated Collectio Rituum has many blessings for things of daily life.  We should reintegrate the use of these blessings and sacramentals into our lives.  They help to keep our hearts focus on God and on goodness, truth and beauty, and many of them are meant to put to flight the enemy of the soul.

Get the priest to bless the eggs using that blessing.  He’ll need holy water, too.

And, as I have said before, I don’t think the newer “Book of Blessings” (De Benedictionibus) is worth the paper it is printed on.

As to the “hatching” distinction, there is in the older Rituale a Benedictio ovorum, a Blessing of eggs, which we would commonly do at Easter time.  This blessing is intended for eggs we are going to eat.  For the hatching eggs, I would go with the Blessing for Fowl.

In the meantime, does anyone else think chickens are funny?

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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44 Responses to QUAERITUR: Blessing chickens

  1. acricketchirps says:

    I do know chickens take themselves very seriously. That’s why it’s so rare to see one crossing a road.

  2. Lisa Graas says:

    Wow. I had never thought of this before. We raise backyard chickens. I never considered asking our priest to bless them. I’m happy if he has time to anoint my daughter before surgery. (He did. She had her gall bladder take out on Monday and is slowly recovering here at home.) Our priest is in charge of three parishes. If a priest has time, I’d say this would be, well….a blessing!

  3. Lisa: Consider giving Father a chicken and/or eggs after he blesses them.

    I was blessing dwellings at Eastertime in Italy and I was given a chicken. Usually people would give eggs, a bottle of olive oil, some cash. This time it was a chicken. Given where I was living, I asked whether it could be lightly killed, then dressed out. No problem.

  4. acardnal says:

    acricketchirps says: I do know chickens take themselves very seriously. That’s why it’s so rare to see one crossing a road.

    Actually, when I was living in Greece I saw a whole flock of them crossing the road. Some of them didn’t make. I wasn’t driving.

    Maybe one of them should have been wearing a mask. . . .

  5. Therese says:

    Chickens are extremely funny. We have six coal black Australorp hens (an Australian breed) that I have named ‘The Furies’ from their appearance alone. (Yes, I know there were only three of these creatures in antiquity, but times change, Father.) They are sweet-natured in their own fowlish way, and given to perpetual gossiping. Many’s the time I touted laundry to the clothesline amid a chorus of “Ooooh, looks like she’s gained a few pounds!” They enjoy strolling about the yard as a flock but soon become distracted by bugs or the odd field mouse–then a few anxious moments ensue until they are together again. And Australorps lay the most wonderful eggs without the slightest hint of broodiness.

    O’Connor saw the vanity of man in her peacocks. I see my own silliness in chickens. I wouldn’t want to be without them.

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    Ducks are funnier. Especially when airplanes fly over which they love and quack about loudly. Their eggs are wonderful too, big and rich.

  7. catholicmidwest says:

    PS, I don’t know how many chickens you’re getting but if you get a whole lot of them, it’s not so funny come fall. It’s a mess no matter how you do it. On the other hand, free range chickens taste the absolute best. They’re wonderful.

    Do you have a good incubator? You’ll need one. Keep an eye out for the pip and isolate it if you see it.

  8. Bea says:

    A “fowl” subject, indeed.

    My parents had chickens and my dad used to behead them for consumption on the chopping block.
    Talk about running around with your head cut off.
    “Off with her head” Alice in the rabbit hole.

  9. Bea says:

    Correction:
    We didn’t consume them on the chopping block, that where they headed to be beheaded.

  10. Shamrock says:

    I was recently at the Post Office in line when I saw a man pick up a delivered box and heard
    a whole lot of cheeping going on. Being curious I asked him what was in the box and he
    said baby chicks that he had ordered. That was a new one on me and I could not help but
    wonder what it must have been like traveling for them, in a closed box, through the many
    miles of handling, etc I think he said they have to arrive overnite because no water, etc but
    I cannot see how this can meet standards for humane treatment. They surely would need a blessing to survive such a journey but I have learned it is common for people to get chickens
    to raise this way.
    I grew up during WWII when many people raised their own chickens in pen-houses in the
    backyard. My father who had grown up on a farm decided one year we would do this. So
    there was the building of the pen house and all the preparation for their arrival. We were all
    excited for their arrival. I am not sure where they came from but am certain it was not via
    rural delivery. I just remember one day I heard a cacophany of cheeping from the basement and when I went down all these little fuzzy yellow bodies ( baby chicks) in a large card board box placed near the coal furnace to keep them warm. I think they stayed there until it was warm enough outdoors and they were large enough to be placed outside in the penhouse. One day the door bell rang and there was a boy who holding a half-grown chicken in his hands. He told my mother ” I think this is yours. oOur dog just brought him home to our house”! Well, that chicken must have been blessed to have survived the jaws of that big dog over a to block journey. He never gained in size one inch and remained small the rest of his earthly life. We named him Mr Little after our piano teacher!
    I bet people who grew up during that time all have chicken stories of one sort or another. We never thought to have the priest come and bless the chickens…only grampa
    when ue was dying!

  11. acricketchirps says:

    acardnal: It’s a cultural thing. Unlike the West, in Greece one (as a chicken) does not make oneself a figure of fun by attempting a road crossing.

  12. JohnE says:

    Rather than turning its head in quick jerks, I’d like to see a chicken turn its head slowly. That would be creepy.

  13. Will D. says:

    JohnE, there’s an easy way to do that. Just ask it about Niagara Falls.

  14. Sandy says:

    Our son and his wife got baby chicks a few years ago. The chicks reached adulthood successfully and are still producing eggs. It’s great fun and healthy too!

  15. Legisperitus says:

    Savage Chickens are funny.

  16. Oleg-Michael says:

    Hmmm… D’you think that chicken should properly be called “birds of the air”? Or ostriches, or penguins?..

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Chickens are dumb.

  18. RichR says:

    Another blessing for poor Fr. Finnigan to be pestered with :-))

  19. Knittycat says:

    Thank you Father Z!

    My chickens are very funny. One of them has become very attached to me since I took care of some ingrown feathers. She likes to sit on my lap when I’m outside reading.
    My chickens did cross the road earlier this week. Seems the pecans over there are better than the ones over here. They’re confined to the run for the next few days until they forget that little adventure. Too many cars for them to try that one on a regular basis.

    As to shipping chicks, chicks are shipped when they are less than one day old. At that point they still have quite a bit of yolk left to ‘feed’ off of (They’ve absorbed it into their bodies, but it’s still sustaining them). The don’t need water or food for up to three days. For safety and warmth, they are rarely shipped in batches of fewer than 25, although when they are they’re usually shipped with a warming pad. After three days, chicks should never ever be shipped. Only when they reach adulthood is shipping them ok. And in both cases, they must be shipped in a method that gets them there within two days, and never ever over the weekend.

  20. fvhale says:

    From Ven. Fulton Sheen, Through the Year with Fulton Sheen, Ignatius Press, 2003, p. 212.

    Liking is the emotions….Loving is the will….I can illustrate it by an example.

    I don’t like chicken.
    Why don’t I like chicken?
    Because when I was a boy, my father used to send us Sheen kids out to one of his farms every weekend and every summer.
    The tenant farmer, in order to get in good with us, would give us chicken every day
    except Friday.
    In the course of my young life,
    I wrung the necks of 48, 632 hens.
    At night I don’t have nightmares,
    I have night-hens.
    I have visions of headless chickens
    squirming in barnyard dust.

    So I don’t like chicken.
    But if I go to a retreat and am given chicken,
    I eat it because I could love it.
    I don’t want to hurt the person in the galley who gave it to me.
    This is the difference between liking and loving.

  21. LisaP. says:

    I’d also just add to the shipping chickens question a note that the life of an industry chicken is much, much more stressful and inhumane than the life of a chicken kept at home. This wouldn’t justify, of course, any cruelty but a little stress is unfortunately sometimes hard to avoid since our nation no longer has a couple chickens in every back yard!

  22. sisu says:

    Speaking of chickens – saw this on Catholic Memes Facebook page…it seems chickens are not just funny, but an important proof ;)
    http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/556471_425847090824390_505978581_n.jpg

  23. StWinefride says:

    Supertradmum, I think you may just change your mind after watching this! :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXLwDL6bJWc

    Chickens are the best!

  24. The Masked Chicken says:

    All right, stand back…I’m a’comin’ in…

    “I’m planning on hatching chickens in the next couple of weeks. ”

    I am available, for a small fee.

    “I’m using shipped eggs which have a higher mortality rate from being through the mail system. (but I simply can’t get what I want locally)…”

    I keep telling people to use storks.

    “There is in the old Rituale Romanum the Benedictio volucrum, a Blessing of Fowl.”

    ‘Tis a fowl blessing, ta be sure, I tell ya…

    “Get the priest to bless the eggs using that blessing. He’ll need holy water, too.”

    What a great pro-life sentiment: the eggs are little chicks hidden in a oval, just like in a mother’s tummy.

    “In the meantime, does anyone else think chickens are funny?”

    Why, thank you. I have my days.

    I mean, after all, how hard do you think it is to generate a universal chain/anti-chain bottom element in a formal concept lattice using Bayesian updates on the Markov chain probability matrix, which activates a bifurcation in the state space using a cusp catastrophe that causes the inhibitory and excitatory structured event complexes in the pre-frontal cortex to undergo oscillatory script-switching?

    I mean, if you’ve got that down, it’s really easy.

    “I do know chickens take themselves very seriously. That’s why it’s so rare to see one crossing a road.”

    It’s even rarer to see them crossing themselves.

    “Maybe one of them should have been wearing a mask. . . .”

    Usually, we have a Crossing Chicken who is responsible for holding the sign.

    “They are sweet-natured in their own fowlish way, and given to perpetual gossiping.”

    Gossiping? We prefer being called peckish.

    “Ducks are funnier. Especially when airplanes fly over which they love and quack about loudly. ”

    Chickens are too busy…well, ducking…

    “On the other hand, free range chickens taste the absolute best.”

    He never said he was planning on (gasp) EATING them…Oh, the horror. I demand they be given Last Rites instead of a measly blessing.

    “I cannot see how this can meet standards for humane treatment. ”

    Chickens are not humanes.

    “I grew up during WWII when many people raised their own chickens in pen-houses in the backyard.”

    Sigh. I thought he said pent-houses.

    “Rather than turning its head in quick jerks, I’d like to see a chicken turn its head slowly. That would be creepy.”

    Mwahahaha…

    “Hmmm… D’you think that chicken should properly be called “birds of the air”? Or ostriches, or penguins?..”

    We are Galliforms. We are the only species of fowl to have a ten minute conversation with Jimmy Akin on Catholic Answers, Live.

    According to Wikipedia:
    “They are more rare on islands, and in contrast to the closely related waterfowl are essentially absent from oceanic islands— unless introduced there by humans. Several species have been domesticated during their long and extensive relationship with humans.”

    By relationship, read: dinner.

    “Chickens are dumb.”

    By day, disguised as a poor dumb chicken. At night, he recedes into his Coop and dons the costume of, The Masked Chicken. He is still dumb, but at least he has a costume.

    At least we chickens have our own national holiday :>(

    “Speaking of chickens – saw this on Catholic Memes Facebook page…it seems chickens are not just funny, but an important proof ;)”

    Unfortunately, the was the ancient Sumarians who claimed the world came from the Heavenly Egg (thank you, Dr. Daniel Jackson of Stargate SG1 for that tidbit) :(

    The Chicken

    P. S., We sometimes find you humans funny, too.

  25. rcg says:

    What a wonderful idea, to give Father a chicken and some eggs! My wife and I grow lots of herbs and give him herbed vinegar and oils. We also make beer and spirits and he gets some of that, too.

    Wonder if he would like a box of puppies?

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear @chicken,

    He is still dumb.

    You know… there is this thing called modesty, but there’s also such a thing called false modesty.

  27. Suburbanbanshee says:

    I’m starting to wonder whether Dr. Thursday (aka Peter J. Floreani from the Chesterton folks) and the Masked Chicken are some kind of twins separated at birth. It’s the Bayesian thing, I think.

  28. ReginaMarie says:

    The wonderful, little Rural Life Prayerbook has both a Blessing of Poultry & a Blessings of Eggs. One can purchase the book ($16 includes S&H) from The Society for the Preservation of Catholic Culture, P.O. Box 84, Wrightstown, WI 54180.

  29. Skeinster says:

    Regina Marie,
    I got an old copy of that off eBay. It was considerably more than $16, but I love the line drawings.

    Re: not wearing Father out. We have a blessing table at our parish on the last Sunday of the month, so the priests can do everything at once. The plan is that all like items are grouped together, to make it easier on them, and that works pretty well.

    We don’t have chickens ourselves, but the head of the Altar Society does. She hooks me up with used bedding for my compost heap.

  30. eulogos says:

    I have chickens. About 60 of them. I got almost all of them as day old chicks, or from the local Agway which got them as day old chicks. As long as the shipping goes well, they arrive in good shape. I have had good luck with them.

    I would like to try incubation at some point, but my friend who tried it in an informal way had some unpleasant failures. Humidity is very important. Amazing that a hen, if she chooses, can do it so well. I have some Buff Orpingtons who should be broody in the spring, and I intend to give them a nice selection of my eggs to brood. In the past my broody chickens have failed (not enough roosters in the flock?) and I have snuck some day old chicks under them so they didn’t brood themselves to death. But I’d like to see the whole process.

    About those Australorps-you forgot to mention the lovely blue green sheen on their black feathers. I had some but lost them in our flood. I’ll have to order some…. might have to build another chicken coop, though.

    I give the excess eggs to a church which has a soup kitchen and a food pantry.

    Obviously I enjoy chickens. However, I do not enjoy killing, cleaning, and especially , plucking them, so I have a problem with hens too old to lay well but too stubborn to die….

    Susan Peterson

  31. Angie Mcs says:

    One of my favorite things to do when I was a child was visiting the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. They had an incubator filled with dozens of eggs, all in various stages of hatching. Some had little tiny beaks just beginning to break through, other had fully hatched eggs, with the baby chicks stumbling, falling over, learning to walk as they dried off under the warming lights. As a child raised in a big city, something that would have been a normal occurence to many country children was a true wonder of nature to me, a miracle. And yes, they were funny, as they bumped into each other and peeped in indignation. I spent what seemed like hours with my nose pressed against the glass!

  32. chris1 says:

    Ahhh chickens. A sore subject around the Chris1 house and the entire city of Rome, GA (USA) lately.

    We have had backyard hens for 3.5 years. In August my formerly pleasant neighbor complained to city codes enforcement (yes, the city codes say no livestock on residential property in the city, but it is well known that this code is only enforced if a citizen complains about their neighbor.) After correcting the concerns which caused the complaint, which could’ve been resolved without getting codes enforcement involved, I applied for a special use permit to keep the hens. 5 of them at the time; used in our homeschooling endeavors with our kids, and providing us fresh eggs. Our esteemed Planning Commission voted us down and sent us to the City Commission. We began a small pro-chicken campaign in town and brought out a major crowd to the City Commission meeting. City Commission put our permit on hold while they investigated the possibility of editing the code to make a provision for the popularity of backyard chicken keeping. They finally made their decision this past Monday evening. They put a provision in the code to restrict backyard chicken keeping to residential lots of at least 30,000 square feet (about 3/4 acre) which is only 25-30% of the residential lots in our town. And then they voted down our special use permit. So, we have to get rid of our chickens.

    Just google chickens in Rome GA and you’ll find a massive amount of news coverage. Fortunately, the press was very friendly and casts the opposition in a pretty negative (but entirely accurate) light.

  33. Dies Irae says:

    Chickens are dumb. I’ve had chickens for eight years and have yet seen one perform an act even bordering intelligence. (Although, I saw a hen scare the heck out of a steer who had never seen chickens before.)

    The egg layer breeds are tolerable, I suppose, and can be pretty, but they are still dumb.

    But the meat ones are so disgusting. Put fifty of them in a pen for a week and you can’t walk within 30 feet without feeling nauseated by the smell. There have been moments when I wonder how I actually eat them. Butchering them is a mess. Once you get their feathers off, it smells a little better, but unfortunately, sometimes they get scalded a little too long and then you smell partially cooked chicken. Pretty nasty.
    The most amusing part is that sometimes, while I am cutting them up on the table, they still make squeaking noises wen you push on their chest, even if their head is already off. It’s kind of eerie.

    But they taste good. :)

  34. Widukind says:

    I like chickens very much. Had them when little, took some to the fair when in high school.
    In Germany on many Catholic churches you will find a rooster at the top of the tower with the cross. One of the patron saints of poultry is Saint Vitus.

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  36. Mariana says:

    Masked Chicken,

    ROFL! Thanks, just what I needed.

  37. feeneyja says:

    Ever wonder what the Museum of Science and Industry does with all of those cute fluffy chicks in the incubators?

    They send them to the zoo to feed the reptiles.

  38. The Masked Chicken says:

    ‘I’m starting to wonder whether Dr. Thursday (aka Peter J. Floreani from the Chesterton folks) and the Masked Chicken are some kind of twins separated at birth. It’s the Bayesian thing, I think.”

    I’m really Dr. Wednesday-After-Midnight, mwhahhaha…

    “You know… there is this thing called modesty, but there’s also such a thing called false modesty.”

    So, you really DO think the costume makes me look fat :>(

    The Chicken

  39. Andkaras says:

    We have a rooster named Peter,a hen named Pauline and another hen named Ellen (don’t ask).They are particularly intelligent,especially when warning us of predators (‘Jerusalem,Jerusalem, How often I have longed to gather you as a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not”)The crowing reminds me that even a just man rises and falls every day.Chicken owners are especially practical people,as evidenced in our favorite chicken magazine, one article “how to pamper your Poultry” followed by next article “How to Prepare ” Coc a Vin”. Chickens are more “Green” than dogs or cats and they are hospitable to the Wild birds in the area. Apparently our birds are content as they have never crossed the road. ; )

  40. eulogos says:

    Chris1-Sounds like a good reason to move to a house with a bigger yard! I have about 3/4 of an acre lot for my house in the village and I have about 60 chickens. (We have a fence to keep them behind the house so we can have shrubs and flowers in front of the house. And another fence to keep them out of the vegetable garden in the back. They get the middle third of the yard.) Five would fit nicely in a small yard. My village only says that they must be contained. If the town made me stop keeping them I would start agitating with my husband for us to move out of the village, back out to the country. Sorry for the loss of your chickens!
    Susan

  41. lethargic says:

    Chickens are indeed funny. When my daughter was in first grade, all I had to do was say “chicken, chicken, chicken” and she would laugh uncontrollably. I used that to get a good smile on her for school photos … everyone was edified in a certain way … !

  42. Angie Mcs says:

    feeneyja, As a child, I never even thought in terms of those cute little chicks being reptile fodder! I probably assumed they were taken to a farm and raised to supply more baby chicks for the museum. And that’s the story I will tell my little granddaughter when I take her to the Museum one day!

  43. SPWang says:

    I could watch chickens all day!

  44. tioedong says:

    Here in the rural Philippines, most folks have chickens for eggs and roosters (their beloved fighting cocks) for cockfighting, which is a religion here.
    But when we were in Africa, we would fetch 1000 baby chicks from the post office to sell to local folks so they could cross breed them when grown to improve the egg production.
    A note of caution about backyard chickens:
    They can catch “bird flu” from migrating birds, and several cases of fatal bird flu in Indonesia and Viet Nam have come from backyard chickens. Indeed, backyard chickens have been banned in Jakarta (although I suspect few people obey the law: A fighting cock is a huge investment here).