By Wendy Fleet
Our family continues to expand. We have just welcomed three beautiful Orpington chicks — Petunia, Josephine and Pip Squeak. Our farm is growing, and we will be able to use chicken manure as fertilizer and eat the eggs. Our girls have been so excited about getting chickens for a while now because they are super cute and the girls can’t wait to eat fresh eggs.
The day we got them, it was like bringing our new baby home. We prepared their brooder and made sure they had water, food, lighting etc. These chicks are family … right? Well, a funny thing happened only hours after getting our chicks. Our youngest daughter, who has been raised as a vegetarian, suddenly asked, “Mom, will we be able to eat one of the chickens?” Eat one of our chicks?! Why, we just named them, with real names. If I were planning to eat our chickens, I would have named them Yummy, Delicious and Nugget. Honestly, I was a bit uneasy at her request but, as of late, she has been eating animal protein with her grandparents and other friends, so naturally she now has a taste for roasted chicken. Our oldest daughter was horrified and pleaded, “No, we won’t eat our chicks, right?” My stepdaughter was raised eating meat and, at age 10, she decided she would never eat an animal again, so here I am with my daughter who suddenly is prepared to slaughter and cook our chickens after being raised on a predominantly plant based diet. Well, I think it’s quite comical actually, so I told my not-so-vegetarian child that if she wanted to eat her chickens, she would have to assist in their slaughter. Of course after pondering the process, she decided that eating just the eggs will do.
Chickens make a wonderful, and now legal, addition to any urban homesteading affair. Not only are chickens entertaining, but you can make jewelry from their feathers. I like to draw them, and they are the best non-chemical form of pest control for your plants or garden. If you make a moveable coop, a chicken tractor, you can get them to tend parts of your property for the day and at the same time spread manure while doing their best to eradicate harmful insects. They’ll do some weeding for you as well. Chickens love the young tender shoots of grasses and other young plants. Place your tractor in a spot that needs some attention, and the ladies will enjoy their day as they make your work load lighter. This can backfire on your early vegetable starts, but as long as you don’t leave them for too long, they won’t destroy your garden.
If you’re not vegetarian, what better way to show your meat the love it deserves than to learn from one of our local organic farmers how to slaughter humanely? It’s a sad affair, but sending them to your plate with love is infinitely more compassionate than the battery caged, inhumane and unsanitary way that most commercial chickens are raised.
We reap the fruits of our choices in many ways, often unrecognized. The consumption of meat involves the death of another sentient being. Bringing this choice into our lives responsibly and compassionately is another, significant way to become green and take responsibility for our choices.
I realize that all I can do is be as authentic as I can be and influence my children that way. Then life belongs to them. They will make their decisions and they usually will challenge the way they were raised as they find their individuality. They know the reasons why we live the way we do, that we are choosing to live in a manner that is working toward a sustainable future when we live harmoniously with the earth. So I am hopeful that, even after trying fried chicken and soda, they come back to choosing quinoa and home grown greens.