Skip to content

I Was A Chicken Sexer

DeenaPaddyWhen I first traveled to Israel (some years ago now), I worked on a kibbutz that had many chicken incubators. First assembling boxes for chicken storage, I worked my way up through the ranks of chick beak trimming, inoculating and finally, I was awarded the position of chicken sexer. It’s a delicate procedure requiring sensitivity. A heavy-handed grip will end the chick’s life in an instant. The chick’s insides have to be squeezed out to check for a small ‘nib’ positively identifying it as a male. So I was a chicken sexer. I failed to mention that on any of my previous dating profiles.

Sometimes getting my hands dirty appeals to me…

In Bali, I wanted to climb into the rice terraces and plant rice alongside the farmers. It looks so pretty from afar, but those berms separating the fields are actually very narrow, unstable mud walls with drops between some fields as much as four feet. My balance is not good at times, so I really struggled to stay atop the berms no wider than my foot as I followed the farmer across many fields until we stepped down into a warm flooded terrace, knee deep in mud.DSC02054

He showed me how to section off a quantity of seedlings and bury them in the flooded substrate. This was all done with mime since he didn’t speak a word of English. He watched and grunted approval as I squelched through the mud bending over to plant and getting stuck with each lift of my leg.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m strong enough…

The strength and balance of the women in Bali is amazing. They carry 2 or 3 concrete blocks on their head and climb hundreds of stairs continuously during an 8-10 hour day. I can hardly haul my own body up stairs. When I came upon a bunch of women carrying blocks along a relatively level path, I jumped to join them.

DeenaBlock_1They were quite protective, making sure I didn’t have too much weight on my head. I set off with my heavy load. Okay, it was only one puny block. We seemed to walk forever.

I concentrated on my footing and was happy to be able to balance even this burden. We wound through the dirt paths into the hidden villages. After about a mile, we finally arrived at the community temple they were working on.

DSC01662As proud as I was to have gotten that far, I tripped on the final stretch and fell. My block broke! We offered payment for the broken block, which ended up being a sizable donation to their temple. Everyone took a break to pose for the group picture.

And sometimes a job just looks like too much fun…

We were camping behind the Whakataki Hotel in Castle Point, New Zealand, where sheep shearers filled the hotel bar every evening after work. I figured that shearing a sheep would be a true New Zealand experience.

DSC02685It turns out to be back-breaking work. The sheep resist being grabbed by their front legs, manoevred and flipped onto their backsides to be hauled out of the pen. Its hard to imagine them as big furry stuffed animals because they seem to weigh a ton when they are struggling. With the sheep set on their behinds and tucked between my legs, cutting off their woolen fleece with clippers was a thrill.

DSC02681My back was aching after only one sheep though, so I had little interest in handling the large, unruly rams who were next in line even though the pros joked I wouldn’t have to bend down as low to shear them.


My high school guidance counsellor never mentioned the variety of jobs that exist in the world. It’s just another reason why travel appeals to me.


4 thoughts on “I Was A Chicken Sexer

  1. With no intention of being confrontational, reading this post did make me feel bad and I wanted to ask you some things to perhaps better understand the mind set of people working in the animal farming industries. When you’ve done de-beaking (cutting off a vital organ so that adult females won’t peck each other as they’re crammed into small cages) and later choosing which chicks will die (the purpose of “sexing” is to discard of males not needed in the industry AFAIK), have you ever felt empathy towards the creatures you were “handling” and the feeling they might experience? Your post mentioned nothing of your sentiments towards these “job”. With the sheep you mention you felt a “thrill” to shave them off and also that they were fighting. Have you ever felt empathy towards their experience of the same situation you’re describing? I’m not asking this to criticize you personally but to understand the state of mind that comes with the “job”.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. In the interest of brevity, I sometimes don’t express all of my thoughts. To clarify, in the case of the chicks, the beaks were only slightly trimmed and since they hardly flinched or made a sound, I believed they suffered no pain. I was never aware that the males would be discarded; I understood only that they needed to be separated for shipping.
      The sheep were a bit fearful of being grabbed from the pen. I noticed sheep ran when anyone passed close to their pasture so I just figured they were skittish about everything not necessarily being penned nor sheared.
      I spoke softly and reassuringly to each animal and handled them lovingly. I empathized with their feelings when I was doing my ‘job’. I couldn’t help but notice though, that the ‘professionals’ behaviour was very different from my own, treating them like a disposable commodity with no consideration of their feelings.

  2. That looks like fun! I believe it’s good to travel round and experience new things, it certainly gives fresh perspective and sweeps away misconceptions! I remember a few years ago I did a day’s ‘gold mining’ in a river in California – that certainly gave me a flavour of how hard it must have been for those souls in the great Gold rush.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *