Via Rod Dreher I found this article that reflects on the profound (and humorous) lessons we learn from sharing our backyard with chickens. He shares about the many lessons we learn about human life from observing chickens.
The most resonant part of the article to me was his commentary on his experience of taking year old factory hens doomed for the scrap heap of industrial farming and rehabilitates them into his more natural setting. His comments about the factory hens behavior when they arrive is fascinating;
Hens that have lived the first year of their life in commercialintensive-farm environments are amazingly clueless when introduced to my garden. Sometimes they won't come out of the hen-house for the first day or two, even with the open door right in front of them. They don't know how to roost, and instead sit all night (and day) on the floor. Once they do get out, they don't know how to scratch and peck. However, once hens have become used to the outdoor life and the freedom of the garden, if they are left shut in the compartment (which is outdoors, with plenty of food and water), they insistently march up and down the fence or try repeatedly to fly over...
If one actually lives with chickens, it's a lot harder to treat them as mere objects.Their preferences are astoundingly obvious, so what possible excuse could there be for giving them any less? If they like greens, why give them pellets? If they like sunbathing, why pack them into a tiny, noisy, smelly place with no natural light? If, as I suspect, the answer is something to do with the "efficiency" of food production, then the notion of efficiency is horrible, incompetent, brutalised and brutalising, and it's certainly not in the interests of chickens at all.
You can see our hens, in the picture above, gathering in front of the kitchen door this morning. They're not the smartest creatures on earth, but they are happy, and there is something about happy chickens that makes me happy.
Go to our "Chicken Dignity" post to see how our thoughts about food and animals were being formed during our year-long experiment.