Posts Tagged ‘humane’

A Nudge From the Universe

Dear Chickens,

I’m writing today as a follow up to our discussion in the garden this afternoon.  It was rather complicated and one-sided; I know your chicken brains were too busy eating unearthed grubs and other delicious bugs as I pulled weeds to pay much attention.  If you do remember, our family was considering raising an endangered heritage breed to help preserve these disappearing and dear animals.  “Good idea,” I wanted to hear you bok-bok while following me for more weedy roots, but you were silent.  So I told you about the catch.  “The catch?” you must have thought.  Then I told you how with raising a self-perpetuating flock, comes the need for culling.  After all, too many roosters will hurt each other and isn’t the point to save your kin hurt in factory farms?  Yet, could I purposely take the life of another living creature that comes to me for nourishment and protection?  Especially one that my child chases among the grass and herbs and apple trees?  Could I?  We’ve been agonizing about this for months and you’ve haven’t offered much advice, allowing us to make this important decision in our own time.

This letter, dear chickens, is to tell you we’ve come to a decision. I think it may have been a small nudge from the universe (although I’m not sure I believe in such things); circumstances coming together and wistful me finding meaning and purpose.  Knowing my interest, a teacher at a local school asked if I could adopt their chicks and even choose their eggs, but I needed to let him know by today.  Then another little nudge:  Being torn between, Dorking, Faverolles, and Java breeds, a search of reputable breeders I know yielded only Faverolles hatching eggs ready in the given time frame.  I had already been leaning towards that breed since its roosters are reputedly the gentlest and quietest.  That is, if roosters are ever quiet.  The choice was made for me.

Now the order has been placed.  Two dozen fertile eggs arrive next week.  They hatch three weeks after that.  Modern markets slaughter their Cornish Crosses at 6 weeks old.  These new additions will not receive names as you have because how could I then do what has been required of farmwives throughout time?  I hope you will be nice to them and integrate them with love, but I suppose that would be asking too much of your chicken hardwiring.  So within three months we engage in what Barbara Kingsolver called a real game of Survivor were only the chickens that meet the American Livestock Breed Conservancy’s criteria will make it to breed another year.  So in the words of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, “May the odds be ever in your favor” because the nicest, quietest rooster will win.

I hope it will not upset you, my omnivorous chickens, that we did not choose the vegetarian option.  I will do everything in my power to be compassionate and humane.  You deserve such dignity and more for all your kin have done for us.   You and I have have a special bond, my trusty laying flock.  A reader commented that every egg is a little miracle and I have to agree.  Thank you for all that you have given and taught our family.

Now the scary part… has anyone done this before?  I know, I know:  People have done this throughout time, but just not in my sanitized suburban setting.  Ahh!  I really need help!

Love,

Mommy

Ps.  I really think Alice Walker was onto something with this whole writing to chickens.

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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.

Love,

Mommy

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.

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