No…I’m not going to eat them. (On keeping chickens that aren’t going to end up on your table.)

I didn’t go with Jeremiah to the farm this morning.  Partly, that’s because as he readily points out, I don’t do mornings.  (That’s not entirely true, I just don’t do mornings as early or as well as he does.)  Also, we were expecting Mr. Raccoon to be trapped in the live trap we set, and, while I know exactly what has to be done and why, I didn’t really want to be there to see it.

I suppose I’m something of a “bleeding heart.”  The other day, I found three baby mice and their mama in a feed bin…and I carried the bin across the property and out to the woods to let them go.  Last fall, when a baby raccoon was living in the horse barn (and regularly messing with Jeremiah’s stuff), I disallowed shooting it.  It was, after all, only a baby.   (Now I’m vaguely concerned that my kindness directly translated to the later killing of my chickens, but luckily, I can never actually know.)

Recently, a friend was incredulous upon learning that I have no plans to eat my chickens.

“So, you’re not going to raise and slaughter your own meat!?!?”

He seemed almost annoyed by this…

…I’m still not sure why.

Don’t get me wrong, I have IMMENSE respect for ranchers who humanely raise livestock, fighting against the factory farming trend that is almost exclusive these days.  Such people should be applauded and supported!  However, I am not one of them.  (If you’re interested in reading updates from such ranchers, check out a girl and her chickens or Full Circle Farm.  I really enjoy reading both of their blogs.)

Why am I not one of them?  For one thing, adding meat animals to my current menagerie would take up even more time.  Time, for me, is at a premium.  Also, they would take up space, also at a premium.  The farm is not my job, it’s my home.  I really don’t want to change that.

Additionally, if it’s not clear already, I get attached to my animals.  I’m not sure why I’d want to take on MORE WORK to raise slaughter animals when I know for a fact that it isn’t something I’d enjoy.

Finally, while we’re by no means vegetarians, we really don’t eat much meat.  To accommodate the meat-eating that we do, I have no problem paying a premium for local or independently certified humane meat.  I buy my beef from family, and I’m still trying to work through the beef quarter I bought last fall!

All of this said, I’m still not sure why it’s a problem or, even worse, why people are annoyed that my chickens might actually die of old age…

Just to clear things up, I thought I’d write a post about why I have chickens, even though I don’t plan to eat them.

Some of my chickens have names.  This one, for example, is Lucy.
Some of my chickens have names. This one, for example, is Lucy.

I thought about writing this as a list, but as I tried to start, I found that the reasons are fairly holistic.

I began to consider keeping chickens when I realized that we were, for sure, buying Eagle Ridge.  Part of the reason I do not eat very much meat, and part of the reason I am so intentional about the meat I do buy, is that I know way, way too much about factory farming.  It’s horrifying when you look into where most of our meat comes from.  And this knowledge comes with implications; for me, I had to rethink what I eat.  (For example, I do not eat pork products.  I gave that up when I realized what hog confinements really were.  I also don’t eat veal due to the usual conditions they’re raised in.)

And, I realized, laying hens are not immune to the implications of factory farming.  Not enough space, unhealthy conditions, and drastically shortened lives are the rule, not the exception.

I knew I didn’t want to raise my own meat, but I knew I could handle raising my own laying hens.

I now know EXACTLY where my eggs come from, and that’s rather lovely.

2014-08-05 11.58.19

Unexpected bonuses?

Chickens are freaking hilarious!  I love watching their antics, and I have found that I generally enjoy keeping them.  (Plus, compared to my other critters, they are remarkably low maintenance in the day-to-day.)

–AND–

They thoroughly enjoy the leftovers that would otherwise go to waste.  (Less wasted food!  Yeah!)

Can anyone explain why it is people would take issue with all of this?

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14 thoughts on “No…I’m not going to eat them. (On keeping chickens that aren’t going to end up on your table.)

  1. People in this country have no problems with dogs, cats, and birds as pets rather than as human food, so I agree with you, why NOT chickens as pets? After watching yours, I, too, realize how funny they are and how each of the personalities are different.

    It’s also very relaxing to watch the interaction between the chickens. Maybe those folks consider relaxation to be sitting in front of a TV with a six-pack of beer. I do squats with kettle bells, run through the mud, and climb over eight foot walls. You watch your chickens. As long as it works, to each his own.

    I don’t know. There’s are reasons slaughter animals have numbers and not names; and there are as many reasons for not killing your livestock as there are for killing it . . . more, in my opinion. Especially since they have names.

    And each chicken makes you even more of a farm girl. 😉

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  2. After I retire next month, the first thing I am going to do is get chickens and a dog. I guess that is the first and second thing. Not sure about eating them (the chickens that is) but I am sure about the eggs. I will eat them.

    The dog will come from an animal shelter. I am looking for the oldest, ugliest, most cantankerous mutt I can find. In other words, a kindred spirit.

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  3. I don’t eat chicken however I do raise and put up broilers every year. To me, they are not chickens. They have zero personality and do nothing but eat, sleep and grow. I, like you, want to know where my meat comes from therefore I raise the broilers, buy beef from a friend (half a steer at a time) and we of course, harvest and put up deer. I also have a local source for pork. I could NEVER eat one of my chickens! I had someone want to buy my turkeys and I was considering it until I found out they wanted to eat them! AGGHHH! No way dude. They went instead to a little girl as pets. I don’t care how old my chickens get, I’d never, ever be able to eat them unless we were in some kind of horrid war and there was no food and I couldn’t dig up any more roots or forage any more berries or boil any more bark for tea. If it makes you feel any better I get the same reaction from a lot of people too (generally male). Chicks just understand chicks I suppose! 😉

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    1. It does actually make me feel better. I’ve had that comment from a number of directions, and usually it’s pretty respectful. (Oh, they’re pets? Alright.) But the other day, my friend kept trying to convince me that I should eventually slaughter them. I started to get really annoyed.

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  4. Haha! So funny you posted this today , Cherity. Hubby and I were just out here reflecting on the upcoming cull of one of my young cockerels. He agrees with you entirely. All my 12 chickens are named and I consider them pets. It is a tough one…”wasting” a perfectly good young rooster (with a nasty bedroom manner, sadly). Hubs says leave him out for the kites. I say it is a waste, as he is only 4 months and perfectly good for food. Still, having said ask this, I still agree with Anna. I can not ever eat my laying hens. They work hard for their feed and deserve a long life.

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    1. I can see the merit of culling a poorly mannered roo, but I agree completely on the laying hens. They work hard! My girls, and my current, exceedingly well-mannered roo, shall die of old age if I have any say in it.

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  5. You have an odd idea of low maintenance. Cows are easier to raise than chickens. They poop everywhere, fight for the one nest everyone wants (even though they have many choices of nests), pick on each other for that nest. Did I mention they poop everywhere? At least llamas and alpacas poop in one community shared spot.

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