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Backyard Chicken Keeping is NOT a Good Idea

Will people ever cease to irritate me? Up until today, I belonged to a group on Facebook that had to do with composting and recycling—it’s made up of people who have graduated from a program, run by my city, of which I was a part last year. I went into the program assuming I’d meet like-minded people—that is, people who actually care about the environment and doing things to reduce our impact on it. To me, the number one thing any person can, and should, do to reduce their negative impact on the environment is to go vegan. It’s the easiest thing a person can do, and it has the most profound effect.

However, there was not a single vegan in my class last year. Despite being told that a large number of vegans have been involved in the program, I have yet to see a single one on that Facebook page. It has been very disappointing. But anyway, I’ve gone along, hoping to find some kind of tolerable common ground with these folks.

That all went out the window when someone posted a video about the truth behind labels like “free range” or “cage free” eggs. The video didn’t work, so I have no idea what it said, but I responded that free range and cage free doesn’t mean what most people think it means (I assumed that the person who posted the video actually cared about the treatment of the chickens—why else would a person care what “free range” means?). I pointed out the fact that male chicks, unwanted in the egg industry, are destroyed by being gassed, ground up alive or smothered in plastic bags. I also pointed out that “spent” hens—those who no longer lay eggs—are slaughtered. I said there is no kindness in eggs and it’s really just best not to consume them.

Someone responded that things would be so much better if our city would give in and allow people to keep chickens in their backyards, because they’d treat the chickens “with kindness”.

Riiiiiiight. I don’t get the backyard chicken thing. I mean, hens don’t lay eggs year round, as their egg laying is dependent on hours of light, so in the darker months here—which frankly is most of the year—they wouldn’t be getting eggs if they were to keep the hens “naturally” (I love that word—it gets misused so often). They would have to mess with the amount of light the hens receive and mess with their feed, too, as hens don’t produce eggs when moulting and need higher protein feed to keep them from moulting (moulting is a natural activity for hens). These are things factory farms do, and they aren’t very natural. Turning chickens into little egg-laying machines for your year-round egg consuming pleasure doesn’t seem overly “kind” to me.

I pointed out that hens only lay eggs for a short portion of their lives. While a hen can live for over ten years, she will usually only produce eggs for between one and three years. I asked what would become of the hens once they were no longer laying eggs. The women replied that they would be killed and eaten. So, an animal who would “naturally” live for about ten years is going to have her lifespan drastically cut because she is no longer of use to you? These women saw absolutely nothing wrong with this. OMFG. They are definitely not “like-minded”. And that is definitely NOT “kindness” to chickens.

The women also indicated their belief and hope that backyard chicken keeping would ultimately eliminate factory farming. I’m not sure how they figure that, as the reason we HAVE factory farms to begin with is that it is the only way to supply enough eggs for our insatiable demand. I pointed out to these two delights that factory farms started out as small “family” farms, but could not keep up with the demand and had to become bigger and more “efficient” to keep up and profit. If family farms couldn’t manage to supply the demand, how the hell will backyard chickens do it? But these people live in an idyllic fantasy world and cannot be reached by logic and common sense.

I also pointed out that the hatcheries where they would be getting their hens from are not accurate at sexing chicks and there is a good chance that someone wanting a hen will end up with a rooster instead. Roosters are not allowed in backyards, as they make too much noise. So what would happen, I asked, if someone got a rooster by mistake? They never actually answered me, but of course the rooster would be sent off to slaughter. How very “kind”.

I also expressed concerns about the well-being of the hens. “Food” animals are not given any kind of protection in legislation—even companion animals like dogs and cats are not very well protected under current laws, and enforcement of those laws is a concern. But chickens are very definitely exempt from any protective legislation, so they would be just as vulnerable in someone’s backyard to all the abuse and neglect they experience in factory farms. And there would be no one I could report abuse and neglect to, as there are no laws regarding hens. People could abuse the hens right in front of me, and there would be no recourse, no one to report it to and no consequences for the abusers. That is not a situation I support.

I’m not sure I understand how keeping backyard chickens does anything for the environment. If you don’t like factory farms, then the answer is simple—stop eating meat, dairy and eggs. There is no sustainable way to supply the current demand for these products. Small family farms will ultimately become factory farms, because that is the only way to create that kind of supply. Small family farms are no solution—going vegan is the only solution. We have to eliminate the demand for animal flesh and secretions.

Anything less will not result in solutions, including environmental solutions. The reason rainforest is being destroyed is to grow soy for livestock feed. The majority of the corn and soy grown in North America is for feeding animals to fatten them up for slaughter. It takes an enormous amount of grains and water to raise one pound of animal flesh, and that food and water could go to humans instead. It would take a fraction of the grains grown as feed for livestock to feed the world’s people and rid the world of hunger. We would be using a fraction of the acreage of land currently being used and feeding MORE people with it. Why is this so hard for people to comprehend?

I honestly thought that the “environmentalists” in my group would at least want to hear about this, but like so many other people, they are not actually willing to change to benefit the planet. They are still stuck in a trendy but outdated and dangerous mindset that will be the end of us all. They can ride their bikes all they want, and compost, and garden, but if they continue to consume animals, then any benefits are negated. I wonder why they cannot see that.

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