Tag Archives: chickens

Project 365 – Saving Animals & Saving Ourselves

Let me start this post by saying, I am not a vegetarian or vegan.   I eat beef, chicken and pork.

But I don’t buy any meat at the supermarket.  All of our meat comes from two local farmers whose animals I see grazing in the fields and lazing in the sun.  Why not just swing by the store and grab that plastic wrapped pork loin or t-bone steak?

Because I know where the meat in the store came from, how the animals were raised and I cannot enjoy my meals.  Restaurants and supermarkets rely on factory farms for their meat and poultry.

You’ve probably heard the term “factory farming” before but may not  really know what it means.  Let’s just look at chickens to help give you a glimpse inside factory farming.

Try to imagine thousands and thousands of chickens crowded into one small place, each chicken getting a 6 inch by 6 inch square to live in. Shortly after hatching, chicks have the ends of their beaks cut off.  Performed without anesthesia, large scale growers say it’s to reduce injuries that result when stressed birds are driven to fighting — for space, for food, for their very lives.

A commonly-held justification for keeping and killing chickens this way is that chickens aren’t smart.  Maybe…but what about pigs?

A baby piglet settles in with his friend. (Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary)

Recent research has shown that pigs are among the quickest  animals to learn new routines including herding sheep, opening and closing cages and playing video games with joysticks.

In fact, they are perhaps the smartest, cleanest domestic animals known – more so than cats and dogs.  And they learn as fast as chimpanzees — the animal whose genome is 98% identical to ours.

More than 100 million of these smart animals are raised in factory farms every year, confined from birth to death and subjected to intense overcrowding in every stage of their short lives, until they reach a slaughter weight of 250 pounds at 6 months old.

Animals on factory farms never get to see the sun, never graze and some, like pigs, never even get to lie down.   The “farmers” say it’s a business; people who know better say it’s abuse.  And it’s this type of abuse that Farm Sanctuary has fought against for more than 25 years.

What started in 1986 as a group of dedicated volunteers has grown to the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization but its mission has not changed.  Farm Sanctuary is committed to, “… ending cruelty to farm animals.”  This group also brings its now considerable resources to education and advocacy.

These are two tools Farm Sanctuary uses to take its message to millions of people who had no idea how cruel life for animals is on today’s industrialized farms.  Farm Sanctuary also pushes for laws and policies to prevent the unspeakable conditions these thinking, feeling animals are currently forced to endure.

How can we help?

Start by understanding the real price that cows, pigs and chickens pay on factory farms.  Stop buying meat in stores.  Find and support a local farmer, instead.  Vote with your dollars  and tell factory farmers it’s time to clean up their act.  And you’ll be helping Farm Sanctuary change the world, making it a better place for our fellow inhabitants — farm animals.

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Filed under Education, Gardening, Healthcare, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Project 365, World Changing Ideas

My Backyard Chickens & The Last Chicken Standing

I am grateful for many things, as I wrote in this post 6 months ago.  But what I am most thankful for was somewhat of a surprise for some people.  It was a chicken.

My chicken.  Lucia or Lucy  as she is known affectionately.

It’s Lucy of the flashing red feathers and bright golden eyes who brings a smile to my face this holiday season. She has brought great joy to our lives for almost 4 years. She is a New Hampshire Red chicken. And she is or was the last chicken standing.

Lucia died in the wee hours of Sunday morning, July 8th, 2012, age and heat catching up with her.  But she is still here, in my heart.

She and her sisters arrived in May of 2008, just one day old.  The packing box they where shipped in weighed more than the 4 of them, combined.  Tiny, soft, fluffy and so vulnerable, they quickly grew into big, beautiful birds, each with her own personality.

My chickens moved out into the real world at just a week old.

Lucia was the smallest, the quietest and always the last one to get to the food.  Even as a chick, her nature was gentle. Today, she sweeps out of her Eglu Go – Green – Chicken House each morning to feast on a mixture of barley, wild rice and brown rice with a nice topping of shredded cheddar cheese.

Then she patrols her pen, always on the lookout for some wayward bug or hapless spider who entered her house while she was sleeping.

Born with a set number of eggs to lay in her life time, Lucy delivered the last of her 230 or so about 6 months ago.  She is now fully retired.  And she is alone.  Her sisters, Heathcliff, Gertrude and Squeaky Ethel left her behind.

Squeaky Ethel, the most intense of all of them and the one who tried to escape every time the door opened, died first, simply laying down one afternoon and not getting up.  Tall, elegant Heathcliff was the next to go.  She laid the biggest eggs, popped out of the Eglu like she was being shot out of a cannon and generally enjoyed just being a chicken.  She, too, just went to sleep one night.

Gertrude had a stroke.  That’s the only way I can describe it.  I found her lying in front of the Eglu one spring afternoon.  Thinking she was dead, I bent down and picked her up gently and she looked at me.  Her body was rigid; she couldn’t move but she was warm and she was alive.

I took her to the patio, sat on the glider and held her in my lap under the afternoon sun, stroking her and telling her how beautiful she was.  An hour later, she died in my arms.

All three lie in small graves in my garden, giving back to my soil and to me.  Lucy will lie there one day but I hope not too soon.

Yes, I know Lucy’s days are numbered.  And I want to make them the best that I can.  So I put fresh straw in the Eglu, feed her blueberries and yogurt for an afternoon snack and give her all the love this small, beautiful red-headed chicken deserves until she draws her last breath.

She will be buried with great dignity in the garden she loved to scratch in and I will know my girls are out there gardening with me.

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Filed under Death & Dying, Gardening, Home Ec on Acid, Life & Death