Thursday, May 10, 2012

What's YOUR end game?

I recently had a few friends send me links to this article that appeared in the NYT on April 25th about how "chicken retirement farms" are suddenly a thing.  Not really surprising given the recent explosion of people keeping chickens as pets instead of livestock, and I'm glad someone started the conversation...

Essentially, this issue is this...

Given that:
A) Your adorable new pets can live 10-15 years (often even longer!)
B) On average, a laying hen lays reliably from about year 1 through year 3-5 (though many individuals will keep laying well into later life - see previous links)
C) In the city, you probably only have space for a few hens at a time.

Then it follows that it is probably a good idea to have a plan for what you intend to do if and when your girls stop laying.  (Side note: yay math/logic!) 

If you have them primarily for eggs, are you willing to keep feeding and housing and caring for birds that aren't laying?  Will you consider sending them to "freezer camp" (as is the standard practice for most people who keep livestock for food)?  If part of your goal is to bring yourself closer to the source of your food, would you rather butcher and eat them yourselves over having someone else do it?  (Keep in mind that it is illegal to butcher animals on your property in many places, so if you're going to do that be very respectful of your neighbors and keep it on the DL.)  Have you made plans with a nearby farm that is willing to take your girls when they retire and let them live out their lives there?

For me, my philosophy is this: in my household, once it has a name it's no longer food.  My "chicken ambassadors" also have other jobs in the public sector besides being layers, so they're still in the workforce, as it were.  But I am also an ecologist and have always appreciated a mentality I first heard about as part of the hunting rituals of an Inuit tribe: that it is possible to accept the realities of nature while honoring and remaining grateful for the spirit and sacrifice of the animal you have killed and will consume.

So what's your end game?

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