One order of chicken, please-hold the sex change operation

A normal, totally heterosexual farmer/writer asks the burning question: “How do you like your chicken: original, extra crispy or she-male hermaphrodite?”

 

There may be some freaky business going on at DeWitt Farms, but I am secure enough in my masculinity to tell you about it. The question is: are secure enough to believe it.

Born and raised on a farm, I have witnessed many oddities, natural wonders and downright miracles in my lifetime. I once saw an old barnyard turkey with a bad back and one good wing take flight and migrate 2,000 miles north like a Canadian goose—all because Momma fetched a hatchet and announced the Sunday dinner menu. I once witnessed Granny whip a chicken-eating dog until he confessed his sins in two languages and then embraced Jesus as his Lord and Savior. But in all my 43 years of farm living, I’ve never seen or even heard of a chicken undergoing a sex-change operation—until now.

 I blame this unsettling event, by the way, on Caitlyn Jenner, the Kardashians and Hollywood reality TV, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I’m away at the office a lot during the week, so it was my wife who first noticed this phenomenon. She rushed breathlessly into the house, almost in a tizzy, to inform me that one of my prized, full-blooded-with-papers Buff Orpington hens had completely stopped laying eggs, was growing a larger comb, waddle and spurs, developing more colorful, male-like plumage, and was now in the act of crowing like a rooster and making unwanted romantic advances to all the other hens in the yard.

Naturally, as a veteran husband, it is my first instinct to discount, disagree with and disbelieve most of what my wife says.  It’s just a fun hobby that I’ve enjoyed since we said “I Do,” and she has a much similar hobby. But a quick visual inspection and rooster-to-hen headcount confirmed what the crazy lady was saying. Still thinking it impossible, I Googled “Can a hen turn into a rooster?”  Man, I really hate it when Google takes my wife’s side.

 

Don’t count your hens until their gonads hatch

Much to my amazement, a little online research confirmed that, in very rare incidents, a hen can transform into a rooster. An article in www.livescience.com cites a year 2000 report published by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences that states, “Sex reversals do, in fact, occur—although not very frequently…To date, however, spontaneous sex reversal from male to female has not been reported.”

According to Backyard Poultry magazine, female chickens are born with two ovaries, or gonads, but only the left one is active and produces estrogen and eggs, the other remains dormant. If some funky medical condition ever damages that southpaw ovary, estrogen levels get critically low, testosterone levels can rise and—abra cadabra!—the chicken formerly known as a hen transforms into, by all outward appearances, a proud, strutting rooster.

These she-males may walk and talk like roosters—talking trash and flirting with all the pretty girls behind the barn—but they are only making empty promises and will be unable to impregnate any other chickens. One website even claims that this sex-change miracle can be reversed by hormonal therapy, but I spend enough money just on chicken feed and laying mash without having to call in a doctor to write a prescription for hormone pills, so you can forget that, boys. Or girls. Or whatever you are.

 

Fowl play, or simply finding yourself?

So Caitlyn Jenner wasn’t the first man to transform himself into a woman, and my poor, confused hen wasn’t the first bird to switch teams, either. What has changed, however, is the way society reacts to all this.

According to mypetchicken.com (and yes, I’ve spent entirely too much time reading about chickens for this article), in Europe there was the famous case of “The Rooster of Basel” in 1474 where a rooster was found guilty of “sex switching” and promptly burned as a witch at the stake for the “heinous and unnatural crime of laying an egg.” Other cases made headlines in Great Britain in 1922 and in the U.S. in 1927, but neither of those chickens was rendered extra crispy by religious fanatics. Mankind has come a long way from the Rooster of Basel to the Caitlyn Jenner of Hollywood.  

So where exactly do I stand on all this sex-changing that is going on in the world? Don’t let my American-flag-flying, truck-driving, rifle-owning, red-neck-farming, conservative exterior fool you. While this may not be popular with my more orthodox Christian brethren, as an evolved, sensitive man and enlightened citizen of the world, I believe strongly in free will and the right to love, live and let live. Be yourself, be true to yourself, love yourself and love who you want to love—as long as it causes no harm to others.

So if a hen wants to spend the money for a sex change and become a rooster, or if two roosters decide to fall in love and want to be recognized by the State of South Carolina as husband and wife, then I don’t oppose that. I may not understand it or relate to it, but I respect and appreciate the rights of every barnyard animal and every human being to be who they are and love who they want to, the hell with what the flocks of society think.

But do it for the right reasons, I might add. Don’t go out to Hollywood and make a spectacle of yourself just to make a few sleazy millions and have your own reality TV show.

And speaking of money—someone owes me some eggs or some cash, Mr. Chicken Jenner, because it appears as if I’m one hen short.