In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Friday, August 6, 2010

the happiness of chickens

Once upon a time in Delaware, far inland from its beautiful beaches and busy summer resort life, I came to a stop behind a huge transport truck filled with chickens. They were on their way to one of the massive poultry factories that rise from that flat landscape like castles lording it over their fiefdom. There were hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- of chickens on that truck. They sat squeezed into cages, unable to stand or move. All they could do was look out.

Being around the sheep has taught me that animals do have emotional lives, no matter what anyone says. But even back then, when I knew nothing, really, about animals, I could see that those chickens were sad. You could actually see a cloud of sadness hanging all over that truck. Probably the driver was sad, and the poultry factory workers. And maybe later on the grocers became sad, and the stock boy replenishing the frozen chicken section in the Safeway, and the people who bought them and took them home and cooked them and ate them were touched by sadness, too, without knowing why.

I remember those sad chickens because our visiting chickens are so contented.
All day long they walk where they want to walk, and wriggle about in dusty places, and sit under the shade, and eat bugs and anything else they see that looks good -- and there's a lot that does look good to these chickens.
They find cool shady places to sit.
They drink water when they're thirsty, and they cluck to each other and do whatever Chevron says when they feel like it and ignore him when they want to. They lay eggs every day, and as evening falls they make their way up the steps into the roost and settle down for the night, always under Chevron's watchful eye.

It's plain to see that they demonstrate a certain chickenly happiness. And I can attest that their happiness spreads to anyone who is lucky enough to watch them as they go about their daily rounds.
I suppose it would be too complicated and difficult to change the world so that all chickens could have at least a taste of this sort of life.


Nancy McMullen said...

I agree. We have backyard chickens, free to roam, take dirt baths etc We keep ours for eggs and fun of watching them. I have given great thought lately of my consumption of meat because of the quality of life of factory farm animals. Love your blog. We live in the suburbs of New England and would love to live as you do.

Sara said...

Just found your blog. We moved to the South Shore two years ago. We don't have chickens, but we do have guinea hens. I definitely agree that they have feelings, and I always cry when we lose one. We haven't expanded to chickens yet. I was raised as a city girl, and am not sure about collecting eggs. I know I could never eat one of my own chickens!