Sunday, February 22, 2009

Give Me the Old Barn Yard

The way the farmer used to get new chickens was to allow the hen to sit on her eggs until they hatched. The proud mother would lead the little chicks around the barn yard, teaching them what it meant to be a chicken. But unknowingly she was teaching them how to be good mothers when they grew up. When they begin laying eggs, they too will find a nice place to lay a dozen eggs and incubate them into chicks. Then, just like their mom, they will proudly carry on the farm tradition.

But there is a new way. Every spring, we go to the Co-op and buy a new batch of chicks. They have been hatched in an incubator and are only a few days old. When you look down in their box you notice that they are all grouped according to age and size, and usually grouped according to sex. They grow up with their peers. They remind me of children in a school yard or grouped in a day care center. They learn to compete and survive in this prefabricated social order. It is not like the old barn yard where the chicks followed the mother hen around looking for something to eat. The new way is much more efficient. Where efficiency and an abundance of eggs is the goal, it is definitely progress. It is a fast new world, you know.

The only problem with this new way is that the young chicks who grow up without a mother’s care have lost the natural instinct to be mothers themselves. It is rare that one of these modern egg layers will devote the time and energy to sit on their eggs and care for young chicks. They are too busy with their own fulfillment to care for the brood.

How are you choosing to raise your chicks?

*Image taken from

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