Monday, July 28, 2008

Visiting chickens

Yesterday, I went to Stephanie's house and dropped off two winter dresses that Sophie once wore so that Stephanie's two young daughters can use them. I saw the bees and five chickens Stephanie keeps in her backyard.

Stephanie chose her 1951 brick cape cod house in part because the Catonsville neighborhood where it is allows chickens and bees. She built a coop herself and bought six heirloom chickens. One turned out to be a rooster. She gave it away so as not to disturb her neighbors.

Two of the chickens are red, two black and one white with black speckles. They are all breeds the big commercial poultry farms eschew because they are not the best layers. However, they are hardy, healthy breeds, Stephanie said, and more intelligent that the commercial birds. Each one will lay an egg a day for most of the year. Stephanie will sell her extra eggs.

It was a pleasure to see Stephanie's little girls holding the tame chickens in their arms. I got to stroke the birds and found their feathers surprising soft. The chickens have no fear of humans and are gentle and easy to handle. It was a treat to watch them waddle around the yard together and to know they are being treated in a humane and loving way.

Stephanie outlined how easy it is to keep chickens. They don't even need to go to the vet. After hearing horror stories of chickens debeaked so they don't peck themselves and each other to death in distress at their overcrowded conditions, it felt good to see happy fowl in a natural setting. Maybe as the energy crisis drives up fuel and food prices, more people will want to keep chickens. Getting such pieces of agriculture back to a human scale will be good the birds! It would be good for humans too as I believe something deep inside of us(at least some of us!) longs to treat animals in a balanced and harmonious way.

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