A Difficult Letter to Write to Chickens

Dear Chickens,

Mommy has been conflicted since you came into our lives last summer and my child kissed the tops of your fluffy heads. Is it odd to call myself your mommy? After all, I am the only one you knew since hatching from your shell. Like all beginnings, we knew there would be joys and tragedies, but I did not foresee how welcoming you into our garden would change my daily life. Before you came, I went grocery shopping; I ate. Now I cannot make a menu or walk past the market’s glistening shelves of plastic-wrapped cuts without thinking of you, thinking of your warm chicken-ness, thinking of your curious beak begging a treat, thinking of each feather quill on each of my fingers when I carry you inside your run at night. I’ve read about what your kin are subjected to in factory farms and wasn’t that the point of raising you here at home? To give you dignity, freedom, and chicken-joy?

We have had lots of joy: Glorious eggs, chicken chatter, scratching in the compost, and dust bathing among my flower beds. We’ve already had lots of tragedy. One of your number did not make it long after hatching. It was a case of failure to thrive and we had barely met. There were still so many downy little chicks to care for. We lost another a couple of weeks later. She was partially paralyzed and suffering severely. I admit I hastened her end. I had never before purposely taken the life of another animal, but she was in pain, I assuaged myself. Then not long ago, we lost Chocolate Chips to a hawk, our friendliest and most inquisitive of the flock. She was perfectly healthy and all that was happy in the sun and grass. This was the hardest of all and I still miss her every morning. This is life on the family farm. This is the cycle.

So, dear chickens, we are daily participating in that farm cycle that precious few families and livestock experience. Do we take the next step? Do we expand our flock with a heritage breeding program to rescue an endangered breed? If our family is to eat meat, do we do so from chickens that were hatched by chicken mommies instead of electric incubators and allowed to run in the grass and nap in the sun? How do families do this? Not technically (I’ve found that in books), but spiritually, emotionally? How do we explain it to a 3 year old? How do I pluck feathers that I saw moving with breath only minutes ago? How can I not when confronted with agribusiness?

Help. I need advice.



Ps. Perhaps you can tell I’ve been reading Alice Walker’s “The Chicken Chronicles” by the letter format, but forgive me because it feel good to write to you, my dearest chickens.

10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dreambles on April 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    What a fantastic letter, and I totally agree with your sentiment. Until I had chickens, I did not understand the sacrifice that we ask of other animals so that we can continue to live. Now, I’m not joking at all when I tell people that every egg is a little miracle.


  2. Posted by Simple Farming on April 27, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Loved this. I didn’t know how much fun chickens were until I had some. Now I can’t imagine my gardening chores without their participation and comments.


  3. Perfect! 🙂


  4. It’s such a conflict. I agree. If we ate no meat most animals would not have any life. How many chickens, pigs and steer would people have as pets? Give them the best life, be kind and find someone to trade meat with. Good luck!


  5. PS, thanks so much for reading and liking my post!


  6. Posted by Wendy Thomas on May 23, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Thanks for liking my blog post, if you hadn’t I wouldn’t have seen this one.

    I deal with this topic all the time, I love our chickens, I write about our chickens but instead of eating our healthy, non-antibiotic or hormone filled chickens, I leave them in peace and buy a chicken from the grocery store.

    Even I see the hypocrisy in that.

    My goal is to eventually eat one of our chickens. Not today, probably not tomorrow, but someday.



    • Like you write in your blog, you can’t eat your named flock members, especially your adorable clicker-trained ones! I think the only way I’m going to survive the cull is that these new chickens were purposely purchased with this intent, will remain unnamed, only the mean roosters are up for dinner, and I purposely chose a new-to-me, single, uniform breed. When my eggs do hatch (Monday!) and the roosters start to fight in the natural course of things, I’m hoping it will be easier. Culling is hard, but necessary with a straight run or the roosters will injure each other. I wouldn’t call it hypocrisy to have a laying flock and yet purchase grocery store poultry. These are two very distinct purposes, eggs and meat, requiring two very distinct frames of mind. So keep me smiling with your “Lessons Learned From the (Named) Flock” and if you do take that leap one day, I look forward to reading all about it.


  7. Ah, how do you explain it to a 3 yr old? Hopefully, better thane my Grandfather! One Easter, the family, which included 7 granddaughters all under 8 yrs old, sat around the Easter table at my Grandparent’s house. One of us asked, after asking about each cat, the dog, chickens, etc “Grampa, how’s Buffy?” He smiled at us and took a bite of lamb and said: “Delicious!” My Grandfather, my father and my uncle laughed for hours… the women didn’t talk to them for weeks, since they had to spend weeks with us, 7 traumatized little girls. That was the last Easter dinner. We still had Thanksgiving but no more Easters at my Granparent’s house.


  8. While we normally buy air-chilled and if possible, organic chicken to eat, we have had one of our own butchered. She was a large French Marin that had turned to the dark side. She was not laying and was eating others eggs. She would peck all the other hens and was a mean cantankerous old biddy. So we found a small place nearby that sells and butchers their own live chickens and agreed to do ours. No one missed her. She made a great soup. But I could not do it myself. Too chicken I guess.


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