Hipsters and Old Chickens

by Mark T. Mitchell on July 9, 2013 · 3 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Here’s a piece describing how some backyard chicken owners are sending their birds to the animal shelter.

Despite visions of quaint coops, happy birds and cheap eggs, the growing trend of raising backyard chickens in urban settings is backfiring, critics say, as disillusioned city dwellers dump unwanted fowl on animal shelters and sanctuaries.

Hundreds of chickens, sometimes dozens at a time, are being abandoned each year at the nation’s shelters from California to New York as some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive.

The assessment of an animal shelter worker:

“It’s the stupid foodies,” said Britton Clouse, 60, who admits she speaks frankly. “We’re just sick to death of it.”

The obvious answer is to slaughter the old hens and eat them. Same with the roosters (if your chicks weren’t sexed). It’s this bloody side of animal husbandry that many find repugnant. But to pretend that the meat we eat was never a living, breathing, bleeding creature is a falsehood that many seem eager to embrace. Perhaps its a good thing to be forced to recognize that when we eat meat or poultry we are eating something more than a steak or a drumstick.

Our 25 chickens weren’t sexed and we’ve got eleven roosters right now. In a month or so, ten will be in the freezer. We’ll see if the boys enjoy the process. I’m already fairly certain my wife will find something else to do….

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar robert m. peters July 9, 2013 at 11:53 pm

Mawmaw Peters, Papa’s mama, killed chickens every week so that fried chicken would grace the table on Sunday, at the noon meal, dinner, in our climes. She’d wring their necks, cut off their heads and bleed them, often letting the headless chicken go to run or flap about the yard until its running and flapping ceased. Once, one of the birds, without head, flew up into a wisteria vine, a big one, which wrapped itself around a big oak. (The vine was my “bean stalk” which I climbed looking for the giant, his wife, his harp, his golden-egg-laying goose and his bag of money. I never found him or them; but it was fun.) I got the task of poking the headless chicken down with a long bamboo pole which Mawmaw kept for just such occasions. Once the chicken was bled and dead, she scalded the bird so the feathers came of. (My maternal grandmother, Granny, skinned her chickens before frying them.) Mawmaw quickly washed them and cut them up. She taught me how to sharpen the knife and how to cut them up. Then came the frying, plenty of chicken for Sunday. We cousins got legs, wings and, of course, the pulley bone or the wish bone, to fight over. Ladies usually opted for the backs. Men got the rest.

Chicken also makes a good soup. It is an excellent ingredient for gumbo. Chicken and dumplings make a good winter meal.

Chickens are vicious, dumb birds. When I was real small, around two, about twenty young hens jumped me because I was feeding them too slowly. Mawmaw killed several just getting them off me. Roosters fight to the death. Chickens will also eat one another. In their kingdom, it is fatal to be at the bottom of the pecking order.

I like eggs. I like chicken fried, in gumbo and with dumplings. I put up with chickens to get those things. I shed no tear when one loses its life to accommodate my likes.

avatar David Smith July 12, 2013 at 8:34 am

This is simultaneously sad and hilarious! I can’t help sensing, though, that herein lies the danger whenever a good idea literally grounded in reality becomes a movement de jure, be it the agrarianism of Wendell Berry or the local food movement among these “hipster” foodies, etc.: it all too easily becomes an abstraction attracting the shallow to the latest “new thing”. These types will simply have no truck with reality! It’s too messy!

avatar Marc Kivel July 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm

Sounds to me like an opportunity for some local butcher to make a living…

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