Read: Is Cousin Clod happy?

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Since I no longer drive to work, I now am pleasantly awakened each weekday to the sound of my favorite radio station WSM and the Bill Cody program. "Cody In The Morning" is one way I start the day and have been doing so for sometime. His radio show is like a radio program should be on a station with a legacy like WSM. It has always been a mainstay in my family and has also been around ever since I came into this world.

As a matter of fact, we had an old brown Philco radio bought at the local Firestone store that sat on top of the white, green-trimmed cabinet in the kitchen that only would pick up "The Air Castle of South." I still think it ought to be the law that all kitchen radios be tuned to a local AM station and the radio knobs pulled off so the station can't be changed.

At high noon each day back on the farm we always stopped for dinner, to not only eat, but also to listen to the market report on John McDonald's Noontime Neighbors radio program. Whenever that dinner bell would ring you knew it was time for us children to get quiet because Daddy had to hear if the livestock market was up or down. The results of that market report also helped with his attitude when we went back to work in the field. Always liked it when they said the market was up.

During my time of listening recently to the Nashville station, not only at home but also in my pickup, I heard a commercial that dealt with a certain brand of chicken you could buy at your local grocery. The thing that caught my attention in the advertisement was that they were referring to how happy their chickens were back on their farm. They said their birds didn't receive antibiotics or other drugs like other chickens grown on other farms, and that they lived in special houses that helped keep their chickens healthy and happy.

I appreciated the image the commercial presented, talking about the health of their fowl and that they were taking extra steps to keep their product safe for the consumer. It's good to know that poultry producers are very aware of providing clean, safe and comfortable housing for their chickens and the consumer's concerns are always a part of maintaining their operations.

The thing that I have a problem trying to understand is how to tell if a chicken is happy or not. Telling folks your chickens are healthy and content is understandable, but saying they are happy is somewhat hard for many of us country residents to grasp. I raised chickens for years and was even the grand champion winner in my county 4-H club six times in a row for having the best group of twelve pullets.

I have even had the grand champion Rhode Island Red rooster at the Tennessee State Fair, but I have yet to hear a chicken laugh. I can't even tell if a chicken is smiling or not. They all have that sort of silly look with their mouths open, but I don't think that means they are happy. Cousin Clod has a silly look and also walks around with his mouth open at times and I know for a fact he is not the jolliest person you would ever want to meet.

Maybe they cackle every now and then, but does that mean they are happy? A lot of people think because a hen cackles after she lays an egg she is proud and happy of the accomplishment. I think she is just glad that the ordeal is over for the day and she doesn't have to think about it again until tomorrow.

We are still trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg. Nobody really knows why the chicken crossed the road. Is it true that the term dumb cluck comes from an observation of the abilities of chickens? Do we run around at times like a chicken with our head cut off? And, just what are the Colonel's secret ingredients in his fried chicken recipe?

Who would have ever thought all of this high level fowl pondering would have resulted from a WSM radio program. Maybe you would have thought it considering the shows content, but I still am not sure that a chicken can smile or be called happy.

-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at

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