Pluckin’ Chickens


by Ana Grarian

When I was a kid there were many jokes blaming the dog for not having your homework done. One of my favorites went like this (warning – my family likes long wandering jokes)

Teacher: Tommy! You are late for school! Where is your homework?

Tommy: See teacher, last night there was a ruckus outside in the hen house and, Pa went out to see what was up.

Teacher: Yes

Tommy: Pa took his shotgun with him ’cause we been havin’ problems with varmints.

Teacher: Go on.

Tommy: Well Pa sleeps in the all together.

Teacher: Tommy! What has THAT got to do with your homework!

Tommy: Pa had just cracked open the hen house door. He sighted his gun and was scopin’ out fer varmints when Rufus our hound dog came up behind him…

Teacher: Tommy! Get to the point!

Tommy: Well when Rufus’ cold wet nose hit Pa’s, uhm, behinder, Pa let go with both barrels of that shotgun.

Teacher: What in the world does that have to do with you being late and not having your homework?

Tommy: Well teacher, we spent the last six hours pluckin’ chickens!

That was from the day when folks had their own flocks. Town and country families had chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese for eggs and meat. When eggs were plentiful, they supplied extra “pin money” for the household as well as protein. Extra roosters, mature ducks, geese, and turkeys supplied meat for the table. Even spent hens supplemented a homemade soup. They were often childhood pets as well, though children knew their ultimate fate. These animals were cared for and protected as an important part of the household economy.

And what about in today’s economy? So called, modern, laying houses see individual chickens as mere fodder in a mill that produces eggs. Chickens live crowded into cages that allow them only to eat and drink and drop eggs. Chickens that are ill or get caught in the cages simply die in place, where they are trampled by the other chickens crowded into that cage. Chickens that manage to live through to the end of the cycle are roughly transferred to euthanasia machines. It doesn’t matter how they are handled because they are “going to die anyway”.

Let’s think about this before we grab that ubiquitous egg sandwich on a muffin that is available everywhere from the corner gas station, coffee shop and fast food chain. Where does our food come from, how was it raised, and even how did it die? If we are what we eat – we should be better than this.