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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.


Are Backyard Chickens Pets or Food?

 by Keith Goetzman


Tags: food, sustainable food, agriculture, chickens, backyard chickens, meat, eggs, environment, Keith Goetzman,

Backyard chickens 

The backyard chicken boom is teaching a lot of urban dwellers about life on the farm—but it’s death that is proving to be the harder lesson for some of them. In “When Backyard Chickens Become Pets,” Meatpaper’s Kassandra Griffin describes the mortal dilemmas that take many a new chicken owner by surprise.

For one thing, predators from hawks to raccoons can break into coops and massacre chickens. For another, hens stop laying eggs when they reach a certain age, and then some hard choices must be made unless one wants to oversee an ever-growing geriatric chicken population.

Griffin interviews a Portland woman who began raising chickens and grew close to a hen named Lucky that no longer lays eggs—but slaughtering Lucky is a no-go. “They’ve been very easy pets to have,” she says. “It’s just heartbreaking when they get killed. I can’t imagine killing one myself, especially not to eat.” Writes Griffin:

In that, she illustrates a new urban problem: People want to get closer to their food, but often that means getting closer to eggs, but not to meat—few want to eat an animal they know by name. When older hens stop laying, the owner runs out of eggs, which were the presumed point of having the chicken in the first place.

Griffin goes on to interview less squeamish chicken owners who’ve made meals of past-their-prime birds. Says one, “I feel kind of sad about the chickens but not sad enough to eat them.”

Source: Meatpaper (article not available online) 

Image by Will Merydith, licensed under Creative Commons.