The Great Chickenomachy of Chandler County, Kentucky

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bobby said it was a simple mix-up, but now, I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

See, I buy baby chickens from the farm down the road every spring. It’s always fun to hold the fuzzy yellow puffballs. They peep and peck at my fingers as I remove them from their box and place them in the brooding room under the warm heat lamps. But this year, I opened the box to find a dozen featherless creatures, pink-skinned and covered in dimples where pinfeathers should have sprouted.

“What the hell, Bobby?” I demanded.

Bobby Swinson, the farmer who delivered the little chicken-beasts, scratched his scruffy beard and shrugged. “Must have got the boxes mixed up. These’re the new experimental chicks from the university.”

“I want laying hens, Bobby, not bald science experiments.”

“Oh, they produce a lot of eggs,” he said. “Our first brood had a bright blue skin tone—really ugly—but they gave us almost double the usual yield.”

Double the eggs? Hard to believe, but Bobby said he’d give me fifty percent off the sale price. I turned on the heat lamps and unloaded the chicks. They rubbed their naked heads against my fingers in a very un-chickenlike way. I shuddered and latched their door.

That night, a weasel raided the henhouse. I woke at 2 am to an awful commotion and raced outside, expecting to find a massacre. And I guess it was a massacre, but not like anything I’ve ever seen. The bandit had been ripped to shreds, and the little pink chicks were gorging themselves on fresh weasel meat. The fattest chick had rolled in the dead animal’s pelt. Matted hair clung to its wattle. Another chick raked its tiny chickenfoot over a shard of bone, back and forth, like it was sharpening a knife.

Now, I’m tellin’ you, I’ve never seen a weasel’s skeleton before. Sometimes coyotes leave the remnants of their midnight rodent-snack at the edge of my farmyard, but even then, the bones aren’t shattered. How could these baby chickens do more damage than a pack of coyotes? The chicken with freshly sharpened toes darted over, deposited a piece of backbone at my feet, then twined around my boots like a cat.

I called Bobby the next day to tell him to take his damn science chickens back. He didn’t answer his phone. I assumed he was avoiding my call because he didn’t want to give me a full refund, so I tried to forget the grisly scene and get on with my chores.

That night, the chickens broke out of the coop. Not through the door, but directly through the north wall. They had already more than doubled in size, so the wall was punctured with a dozen softball-sized holes. I decided, maybe, it was for the best. I went back to bed with a vague sense of relief.

Unfortunately, they returned around noon the next day, dragging gruesome trophies behind them—weasel skins, yes, but also a couple of coyote skulls and some other unrecognizable corpse. They dumped the mess on my doorstep—a gift?—and staggered back to the coop. I called Bobby again. Still no answer, but the pile of gore on my step jingled a happy ringtone. Maybe my chickens’d thought Bobby’s ratty beard looked like a giant weasel?

I bolted my door and loaded my shotgun, dreading nightfall. And sure enough, in the dead of the night, all hell broke loose. Outside, my pink chickens—each one now as large as a lawnmower—had formed a defensive perimeter around my house. An invading flock of sapphire-blue monsters clucked and charged at my door in a highly organized incursion maneuver. Looked like Bobby’s orphans wanted revenge. They surged and retreated, probing for weaknesses. My chickens repelled the attackers with a fierce brutality that would have gagged me if they hadn’t been saving my life.

I thanked the chicken god these bald bastards couldn’t fly.

The battle raged, and then one of my chickens went down. The blue birds fell on it, tearing at its pimply skin. “No!” I screamed. I opened my window and started blasting enemy poultry with #6 buckshot. Every creature on the farm froze for a heartbeat, then my chickens tore into the invading horde with a ferocity I can only assume was motivated by pure chicken-hearted hatred. They pecked and ripped and gouged until, finally, the last adversary died with a bitter squawk.

My chickens strutted around the farmyard, flapping useless wings and making guttural horking sounds until the sun came up. Their pink hide shimmered in the soft dawn light, almost pretty.

So, anyway, I guess I’ll keep them.

Myna Chang (she/her) is the author of The Potential of Radio and Rain. Her writing has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, and CRAFT. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Award in Flash Fiction. She hosts the Electric Sheep speculative fiction reading series. See more at or @MynaChang.