Posted by: A Part of the Solution | April 14, 2010

Reticence? Or just Chicken?

Reticence is, to say the least, uncharacteristic for me. I’m not just forthright. I’m overconfident. I’m even obnoxious. But I don’t hang back, not ordinarily. So why have I spent so little time with the chicks in our workshop? Why don’t I help change out their water and food and bedding? Why am I folding laundry when I could be putting the chickens in their tractor to take the air on sunny days?

I’m not chicken of the chickens. Not really. Sure, they’re a little creepy. They are, after all, descendents of the dinosaurs with cute little feathers pasted on. Really, watch them looking at each other with speculation in their eyes. Observe their merciless application of the pecking order. These creatures have an inimical quality to them and I refuse to let it slide just because they’re tiny and make appealing ‘peep-peep’ noises.

So why the reticence? Why am I holding myself apart from these fluttering, curious birds? Why don’t I get more hands-on? I’ll be honest. I still differentiate between animals I keep for companionship and those I keep to provide me with food.

These chickens are never going to see a styrofoam tray and shrink wrap. These chickens are never going to get an inspection stamp from the USDA. These chickens are never going to live with tens of thousands of near clones in one long, dark, smelly building. But they are potential food nonetheless. As such, I want to make as little relationship with them as possible.

I don’t want to name them. I don’t want to know them by their individual markings. I don’t want to identify them by their location in the flock’s pecking order. I want to remember the place we’ve chosen for them in our personal food chain and act accordingly.

It’s a primitive instinct not to eat the ones you know. In cultures practicing cannibalism, anthropologists have found that the rules preclude eating relatives, or even eating members of tribes which are near neighbors. One eats what is strange. One eats that which is ‘other’. One does not eat that which is part of the larger family.

So I’m trying to keep myself apart from our chickens. I have every intention of eating them; therefore, I have every intention of not getting to know them. They are individuals. They are unique and distinct one from another. Ethics insists that by not knowing I will be better able to keep my eyes open as I prepare and serve as food the deceased members of our little flock.

I won’t include here any endearing videos of the chicks learning about grass, bugs and the limits of flight without adult feathering. I won’t include pictures of the chicks being photogenic or unusual. I won’t make it easy to idealize their existences–for myself or anyone else. These birds are on my farm to lay eggs and to provide us with their flesh as the occasion arises.

I’m planning on keeping my perspective as I keep my distance from our chickens.


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