21 11 2009


This is the sweet chicken we will adopt on Tuesday.  Note the blue tape–her wing was splinted in an attempt to rescue it after she was attacked by a raccoon.  Unfortunately, the infection spread to her bone and she is now a one-winged bird.

That is ok with me.  She is sweet, and chickens are walkers and runners for the most part–though they will fly to roost.

They are like quail–with their small heads and large beautiful feathery bodies.

This chicken may or may not lay eggs. She was “donated” to our Bird and Exotic Veterinary clinic when the folks who owned her did not want to pay for treatment.

That is OK–I understand and I am lucky because we now get her.

Here is the difficulty.  My husband is not particularly fond of birds in general and if we have chickens, he would like have fresh eggs.  To be honest, I am tired of buying eggs from provinces unknown–free-range never means what you think it does, nor does humane.

I do not want to order birds through hatcheries, I do not want girls that exist as a result of the inhumane death of roosters (a charge leveled at hatcheries such as McMurray’s) or chicks that have to be sent through the mail.  I will not “just not think about what happens to the roosters”–something posted time and again on “backyard” or “urban” chicken discussion boards.  But in Seattle, we are not allowed roosters, and currently, the local animal shelters do not have birds for adoption (the flush is usually right after Easter when folks discard their cute little chicks by the bucketfull) and I need a friend very soon for this girl.

I have mentioned to people that I would like another bird or two. Unfortunately, I also said I wanted a rescue bird, which I now know was a mistake.  I received an email last night from a local chicken person suggesting perhaps I am “into rescue” and that I might want to rescue two chickens that are currently nonproducing and due to be “sent to the slaughterhouse” in a few weeks.

Of course, I should not “feel obliged.”

Please explain to me what being “into rescue” means?  Sounds a little like being “into bondage” and would I like some handcuffs (they aren’t working but look good). Alternatively, it is yet another demeaning way of talking to a person committed to the emotional and financial burden of adopting animal others in need and of being aware of all of the details of how, where and why we have particular types of  animal others in our lives.

Here is what makes me feel terrible– I want one chicken at least that lays eggs.  And because of that I feel I am trying to square the circle ethically.  I should just suck it up and take the two hens.

But this is what I also feel:  if you are in possession of your own backyard flock you owe the birds that produce your eggs the respect to see them through to the end–whether it be by your own hand or not.  Otherwise, all you are doing is smoke and mirrors without real commitment.  (I will add that serious financial constraints change the dynamic in my eyes but that then you must seek a rescue organization rather than send your birds to a dubious slaughterhouse to be killed)

So what should I do.  We have room for 3 birds right now, and I can buy a laying chicken from a local who doesn’t cull anyone.  But what about those two girls–I hate the thought of the ride to the slaughterhouse and what the slaughterhouse itself is like.


I am sure you are not particularly horrified by this.  Our take on chickens is that we don’t treat them or see them the way we do “our pets.” Our dogs and cats in particular.  “It’s a chicken” people always exclaim when I talk about the splint on our California chicken’s leg after we saved her from a predator (she and her friends moved to live with my parents when we came up to Seattle and they wouldn’t give them back after we bought a house).  Like that should explain why taking her to a vet is silly.

The logical extension of the argument that we should treat chickens differently than dogs because they are less intelligent is that we should treat people with cognitive disabilities differently, assume they suffer less, provide less care for them, from people without apparent cognitively difficulties.

Of course, there is always the argument that having our backyard flocks is far more humane than buying our eggs and meat from factory farms–and of course I have to agree with this.  But, at the same time, I do not think the horror of factory farming releases us from our own ethical considerations–just as the fact of all the raped and killed as a result of the horribly brutal war in the Congo doesn’t mean hitting people that annoy us (including family members such as children) with a stick is OK because we are not gang raping them in front of a four year old child.

But now I’ve pissed you off, haven’t I, because I’m talking about “people” and “animals” in the same breath so I am a crazy misanthropist.  (This despite the fact that–horror of horrors people ARE animals). (and by the way, before you go off on me, how many of you have donated time, food or money to your local food bank, or fostered a child through CARE or given your time to help local children, or talked to the guy panhandling on the corner rather than turning away because you don’t want to get involved).

So now you’re mad, and so am I– I’m still angry about that innocuous email, about the two sweet hens headed to the slaughterhouse.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s