Who are you calling chicken?

Poultry day today, though there is a scarcity of information on the internet as to why, or who started it. Once an expensive treat, chicken is now the second most widely consumed meat after pork. Rather than trotting out my favourite chicken or egg recipe, I would like us to spare a thought for these often mistreated animals.

High demand for cheap meat and eggs means intensive farming, centered on profits not animal welfare. A quick search on the internet will reveal the horrific conditions they have to put up with. I implore you to buy free range eggs and meat wherever possible, or if money is tight to at least buy British, as our welfare standards are much higher than some of the countries we import meat from.

Thankfully battery cages have now been banned in the E.U and replaced with “enriched cages” which allow a little natural behaviour, though quite frankly I don’t think they’re much better. After 12-18 months of intensive egg laying the birds are culled. There are charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust who do their best to collect and re house as many of these hens as possible and give them a happy retirement. http://www.bhwt.org.uk/

Chickens are beautiful and engaging creatures, I always say that there is nothing as happy as a happy chicken and seeing a sickly, ragged and scared bird blossom into a fluffy, friendly (and still productive) bundle of joy, is a wonderful thing to experience. If you have some basic experience of chicken keeping, I highly recommend adopting a small flock of ex-cage hens.hero dustThis is Hero on the day we got her, being dusted for mites. You can see how ragged her feathers are and how most of her neck feathers are worn off from sticking her head through the bars of the cage. What you can’t see is how badly her beak was damaged. All cage hens have the tip of their beak cut off to stop them pecking each other (it seems to make sense but is widely believed to cause long term pain and suffering to the bird) They took way too much off Hero’s beak making it difficult for her to eat. She changed from the scrawny thing you see here to a plump and sociable creature who loved to follow us around pecking our shoes. She led a full and happy life and I was there to make her as comfortable as possible in her last moments.moriatyMoriarty was in a similar state, see how enlarged her comb is from living in over heated conditions, all the feathers on her back were missing and her poor little red pecked botty with its tuft of feathers, looked just like a shuttlecock! She’s still very timid, though Meg, who we got at the same time, is as bold as they come. They all have different personalities and are a delight to watch as instinct kicks in and they learn how to behave naturally for the first time in their lives!

No one would accept a cat or dog being kept in a small cage unable to move around, groom themselves, eat and drink normally, get a bit of privacy or be unable to escape bullying, so remember all of the animals who spend their entire lives suffering so we can eat meat or are euthanized as soon as they are past their prime.