(The following was written by Marilyn Gibboney, and is reprinted from “Reflections II”, a collection of local stories available at the Grove City Welcome Center and Museum. Any opinions made in the article are from the author.)
In the early spring it was not unusual to step into Grandma’s kitchen and hear the peeping of baby chickens. And old hen had stolen her nest, laid a “setting of eggs” and started hatching. To protect the baby chicks while the rest of the eggs hatched the tiny ones would be placed in a small basket or box wrapped in old rags and placed behind the kitchen cook stove to keep them warm. As more eggs hatched more chicks were added. When all were out of the shell they would be returned to the mother hen and given a coup of their own in the poultry yard. The mother hen took over. The same story was repeated and repeated. Grandma didn’t buy her chicks from the hatchery, she let nature do it. She also had an egg incubator that she used to hatch larger amounts of chicks.
The same story was true of ducks and geese. The poultry domain belonged to Grandma and she tended them faithfully. The chicken yard was dotted with small tin coops, drinking fountains, and feed troughs. The brooder house was home for the growers or fryers before the pullets were promoted to the hen house and the roosters became fryers.
The ducklings and goslings were good lawn mowers and were moved around from one grassy spot to another to eat the grass. The poultry netting to very good use during the summer. The small pens were scattered throughout the lawn. In the late summer Grandma would get the girls together and announce it was time to “pick the geese”. They would round up the mature geese and put them in the box stall of the barn. One by one they would take a goose put the head down between their legs and pull off the soft downy fluffy feathers. The geese could and would bite hard so they had to hold them tightly. The feathers were put in large paper bags that flour came in. Grandma would hang the bags in the wash house and sell them by the pound to city people who did not raise poultry. They were used for pillows and feather beds.
The ducks were not picked like the geese, but when they were slaughtered they were picked dry and the soft down was saved. Nothing was as soft and comfortable as a goose or duck feather pillow. Every young girl had a pair of goose feather pillows in a feather bed when she married.
Grandma always kept a flock of geese and ducks for eggs and breeding stock. The excess was slaughtered and sold to customers on market, mostly at holiday season. This provided Grandma with her Christmas money that she used to purchase presents for her family.
She always saved a goose for the family Christmas dinner.