If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I used to keep chickens. I really enjoyed their company. It was partly because of my experience with them that I went vegan.
When I first started keeping chickens, I was still eating them. My husband became heavily immersed in the CrossFit life, and he adopted a paleo diet. And since I didn’t eat red meat or pork, all we ever ate was chicken. So much chicken. And so I found myself in a bit of an ethical dilemma. Why did my backyard chickens deserve more respect, privilege, and autonomy than their cousins I purchased to cook?
They are fascinating creatures, and the longer I had them, the more impressed I became with their level of intelligence, their personalities, how they looked out for each other, and the way they greeted me when I came home from work.
You know the labels on the egg cartons claiming that their hens were vegetarian fed? It’s a joke. I’ve never seen more organized hunting skills than that of my free ranging flock of chickens. The first time I noticed this, I had a rooster and 4 hens, and they were walking in circles, getting closer and closer together. Then I saw it: they were herding grasshoppers! I’ve also seen them fight over a green snake that they caught. And they loved it when I brought them grubs from the garden. No, chickens are definitely not vegetarians!
One of the best experiences I ever had with them was when one of my hens went broody. You see, if you have a rooster, you should assume that all of the eggs your hens produce are fertilized. In other words, they are embryos. But only when a chicken goes broody, that is, she chooses to sit on her fertilized eggs, carefully warming them and protecting them until they hatch, will these embryos become chickens. One of my girls did just this. I figured if any of my hens chose to be a mother, I’d simply let her. What a thing… to choose to be a mother.
The eggs hatched while we were on vacation, and our house sitter was amazing and wrangled them to safety, along with their mother, Francesca. She was the best mother! She taught them everything: how to eat and drink, how to preen, the joys of dust baths, and that unless I was bringing treats, they should not get near me!
Chickens are absolutely lovely creatures; sentient beings who deserve freedom and respect. I never expected to love them as much as I did, but they taught me so much about why I shouldn’t eat their cousins. All living creatures deserve our respect. All living beings should have a say in what happens to their bodies. Otherwise, their sole existence is to serve someone else’s interests. If you don’t understand this concept, take some time to observe the creatures you take for granted. Really spend time with them. They will make you change your mind.
When we are thinking of Independence Day, we should consider the freedom of all creatures to live and make their own choices.
The lead photo for this piece is of two of these baby chicks, all grown up. These were the last of my chickens, and once they passed, I did not keep any more.
As always, I hope you all are safe and healthy.