Grow a pair
When the realities of our food choices come home to roost, we tend to start finger-pointing at “them.” But “them” is us. Yes, everyone is guilty. An article about urban chickens in the local paper yesterday spurred this post. An interesting article with the facts stated fairly, it addressed the issues of male chicks being killed at hatcheries. I am actually surprised that this is news to anyone who really cares to think about the food that they consume. The problem is that it is thought to be inhumane to kill these chicks after they hatch, but really they are of no use to the people who are ordering pullets (female chicks) in record numbers for their backyard flocks. Some roosters slip through, and with city ordinances against roosters, many of these chickens end up getting dumped, or taken to pet sanctuaries. We have been the unwilling recipient of some of these misguided folks, who are happy enough to raise the rooster until he starts making noise or gets a little testy. Then they get dumped, just like dogs and cats. You know the drill, “Just take Fluffy out and dump him in the country, near some farm.” Out of sight, out of mind. That isn’t too humane either.
Unless a male chicken is lucky enough to be a meat bird where his male attributes for being robust and large are desirable traits, he is condemned to the same status as a male dairy calf. Girls rule on the farm and I guess in the backyard too!! Meat = Mars, milk and eggs = Venus. As the dairy cow in Babe states. “The way things are, is the way things are.”
In the marriage of business and customer, both sides are culpable. When we as consumers demand eggs and milk to be available every hour of the day, what do we expect? Unhappy with the way food is produced in our modern world, many have decided to keep urban flocks of hens. That is a good thing, the eggs are fresh, people can make a connection with their food. But, if you’re keeping chickens for eggs and you don’t get the equal number of roosters with your pullets you are just as guilty as the hatchery. It used to be that the cockerels were dispatched for Sunday dinner when they reached enough size, and or had an attitude problem. Nowadays though, we are maybe 3 generations removed from the farm and the reality of that type of existence is far from many minds. Ideally, the hatchery shouldn’t have to kill these guys – every pullet should be shipped out with her counterpart. Cities could relax the rules, roosters don’t start crowing until about 15 – 20 weeks of age. At that time they could become Sunday supper. It would be a real lesson in where food comes from. Portland allows 3 hens, or more with a permit. Maybe 6 chickens, with the boys going to the freezer or neighborhood potluck before the noise making phase sets in?
Is it our disconnect with nature that is causing this problem? Why is it OK to keep the hen and not the rooster? And if we don’t want the rooster why not eat him? Sanctuaries are a nice idea in theory, but when times get tough, we may have to come up with more practical solutions. Maybe the next step in ethical eggs will be ethical chicken and dumplings. What do you think?