How The Hen House Turns: Happy Birthday DeeDee and Scooter – A Cautionary Tale

How The Hen House Turns: Happy Birthday DeeDee and Scooter – A Cautionary Tale

By Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

DeeDee and Scooter are 13 years old this month. It’s hard to believe how fast those years have gone—years in which my granddaughters became fine young women, and the dogs grew creaky with arthritis.

Canine genes are so wonderfully creative, you’d think they would program dogs to live longer.

They produce all sizes, all kinds of faces, and many color combinations of various types of fur.

The dogs’ tameness gene package, inherited from wolves, has been found in foxes to be just as creative. So why can’t canines live longer lives?

It makes sense that inbreeding for selective characteristics can produce a high incidence of breed-specific diseases.

Hybrid vigor is not a myth, example being our U.S. President and the growing number of mixed-race children now grown into accomplished, vigorous human beings, recently more self-aware and rightly proud of their input from two bio-cultures.

Selective breeding does no species any good. Very sad examples are the new breed of layers I have added to the Hen House.

They begin laying eggs at six months of age, lay all winter, then die before they reach their third or fourth years. Our first rooster, a hybrid game cock, lived to age 11.

Another example is poor Meatball, the “broiler” chick I got for Ms. Ritz one August. She sat on her nest of unproductive eggs for eight solid weeks, while we were away on too many vacations.

The only chicks left in the feed store were those meant to be butchered at three months. Meatball grew so fast, he outgrew his baby chick fuzz, hence his name.


At six months of age, Meatball weighed about 20 pounds. He measured a cubic foot square.

His bones would barely support him; he couldn’t make it up our backyard hill. Instead of grazing with the other chickens, he would hang out near his mom’s pen at the back of the Hen House.

I still miss Meatball. He appreciated the attention I gave him, and he had a quiet double-bass crow, limited to the first hours of the morning, when he heard me running the water.

Our aging dogs didn’t hear the two coyotes when they vaulted the back fence in broad daylight and put Meatball out of what could have been a miserable life.

DeeDee and Scooter slept through the silent hunt, which is probably just as well.

I’m not sure they could have taken on those two gorgeous, blond coyote youth.

Editor’s note: Dr. Neeper is an avid student of sustainability, steady‐state economics and the impact of cosmology on issues of science and religion. She and her husband Don Neeper live in Los Alamos with a friendly menagerie of dogs, fish and fowl.

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