Sunday, January 4, 2015

Let's cheer for happy chickens

I am grateful to the state of California for a new law: egg-laying chickens must be allowed more room than simply living a life in a box too small to turn around in. The chicken must have enough room to stretch its legs, even to move about a bit. Not much, but some. My understanding is that the beaks are still blunted, but the chicken has a little more quality of life, as it were. One assumes this could possibly mean healthier chickens for healthier eggs. Not sure about that.

I just know that if we used to promote milk from contented cows--we possibly still do--I also want my eggs from happy chickens. Happier, at least.

McDonald's got publicity a few years back for buying their eggs from farms that allow more humane living conditions for the hens. It cost the company more, and I have no idea if the policy still is in place. At least for awhile, though, my guilt over an egg-sausage biscuit was over the grease and calories, not the misery of the chickens providing said eggs. And oh, yeah, pigs don't have much of a life, either.

But back to the eggs. From time to time I can buy days old fresh eggs from a neighbor, and I do so. As someone who grew up with free range chickens in the pen not far from our kitchen, I can taste the difference, and for baking? they whip about a third to twice as high. Usually, though, I can buy only a dozen at a time, and they are apt to be different sizes. For a lot of baking, I go ahead and buy eggs at the store, even though they are weeks older. I pay to get the ones stamped "cage free", and hope that is true.

Information about commercial standards for chickens has been available for awhile, but not really in the news for a number of years. The California law was touted on the news, however, as somehow amusing and unnecessary-coupled, in fact, with the law banning selfies with tigers. I suspect that law also was aimed at humane treatment of animals. I don't know.

I do know a lot of people care about puppies and kittens, which they see, and are largely indifferent to animals they don't see. The United States overall has pretty good laws on cleanliness, clean quarters, decent diet for agricultural animals. We still struggle with humane practices.

Maybe you just have to know a chicken or two. I knew a six-year-old girl with a pet chicken with soft, soft feathers who followed her around like a dog, and roosted in a rather ornamental pen the hen had in the house. She was as fun to pick up as a big teddy bear, and she would nestle in your arms. Most chickens I know simply sing that contented cluuuck-cluck cluck tune as they walk around in sunshine and eat weeds and old cabbage leaves we throw in the pen. Do factory chickens ever cluck in contentment? Do they crow when they lay an egg? I don't know. Maybe they do.

I have a lot of I don't knows here. I do know I want the most kindness possible shared by my fellow humans with the rest of the life around us. I believe the most kindness possible is good for us and the earth itself.

Is this new law a kindness? Sincerely, I hope so.

Guiltless eggs taste so much better.


clairz said...

I do what I can to make my own chickens happy. Yesterday I tidied up their coop, throwing in lots of fresh straw for them to arrange the way they want it. I put more pine shavings in their nests and pulled some weeds for them to eat in their outdoor pen. I would love it if they had completely free range of our entire place, but that would put them in danger from our local coyotes, loose dogs, hawks, and owls--so they have a nice yard of their own that is well fenced and covered with some netting and even a bit of shade cloth for hot days. They make a lot of contented sounds and have a pretty good life.

charlotte g said...

Yep, that works out pretty well for both sides.