In my last blog I discussed how to blow-dry a chicken. I’m sure all of you have been practising and are now experts, so this week we’re moving on to stage two: How To Pamper A Chicken.
Our subject is still Beebop. She’s now around 5 years old, quite elderly for a ‘rescue’ chicken, and is the sole survivor of our second batch of ‘ex-batt’ hens. We started by rescuing eight birds, and welcomed our second batch when only two of those were left.
As they’re rescue animals our purpose is not to ‘farm’ them, but to give them a place of refuge for the remainder of their lives. While eggs are most people’s reason for getting chickens in the first place, it wasn’t for us. Eggs were more of a side effect. I can’t eat them at all (not an allergy but an intolerance) and Linda isn’t too bothered, so many other people got to eat our chicken eggs instead. Eventually, as birds became older the egg count dwindled, eventually becoming…no eggs at all.
Of course, many people kill and eat their birds when egg-laying falls below a certain level. Rather than pass any kind of judgement on that I’d just like to say that as a Buddhist monk this is not an option that I would ever consider.
The problem is, chickens are social creatures. Once Beebop was on her own she started coming up onto the deck and sitting for hours just outside the sliding doors to our living room. Linda put some straw down for her to make it a bit more comfortable while we decided what to do. The weather here won’t allow unprotected straw to stay dry for very long, so clearly a shelter would be better. But what to use…
We discussed the merits of a trug and then hit on the perfect solution. An old compost maker that we don’t really need (we’ve got several compost spots in the garden already) was roped to two heavy concrete ‘breeze’ blocks (how they got that name is beyond me) on our deck.
It took Beebop all of ten minutes of examination before she took the plunge and stepped inside, and the Deck House, as we call it, has been her second home ever since. She clearly loves it (she’s in there as I write) and heads towards it after breakfast every morning. Here she can sit in comfort on a nice bed of (dry!) straw and peer into our living room to see what’s going on. The door faces away from incoming weather, so she stays dry even on very wet days.
Bean (our dog) has her bed on the floor on the other side of the sliding door. She lies on her bed and goes to sleep, facing the garden. Beebop sits in her straw and goes to sleep, facing Bean. And thus are many happy hours passed.
Late in the day we put the door on the Deck House in hopes that Beebop will return to sleep in her usual spot in the chicken coop. Sometimes she does, and sometimes she just nods off standing by the window and has to be carried home. Her coop is more secure in case we’re visited by foxes overnight.
As I said, Beebop is quite elderly for an ‘ex-batt’. This can’t, and won’t, last for ever. But while it does, and for as long this extremely personable chicken is able to enjoy her retirement, we’ll help.
Every day in the UK, 2.5 million chickens are slaughtered. In the USA it’s 23 million. Worldwide, per year, it’s over 50 billion – and that’s just the female birds. A similar number of male chicks are born, almost of which are thrown alive into dumpsters where they die of starvation or thirst. KFC, anyone?