The Question Everyone Asks
There is a certain question that people will ask when they find out I have chickens. Well, actually, there are two. The first is usually, “Can I have some eggs?” Depending on who asks, the answer is sometimes yes, but I don’t give these out to just anyone. The other question is usually something along the lines of, “Who’s going to kill them?” This is a pretty terrible question, for a number of reasons. If you’ve listened to me talk about chickens before, I think you’re aware of the lengths I have gone to to keep my birds alive. I hope you at least aren’t going to ask me this, but let’s explore this question.
An obvious answer would be that if I kill them, then I don’t have any eggs. The main thing everyone gets excited about is the eggs. No chickens, no eggs. I get a lot of my food from the grocery store. Would I blow up the grocery store? No. Maybe that’s an extreme analogy, but you need to think about the supply chain here. Say I did want to kill and eat the chickens. (I assume they think I am going to kill them to eat them, or else I need to worry about the people I come into contact with). I can get one or two meals out of one chicken, and then I need a new chicken. Or I can keep getting eggs every day for years, and eat those. I’ve got a pretty good deal going where for very little money I get about a half dozen eggs a day. The cost of eggs vs. the cost of chicken feed is not even a question. Eggs are not cheap, and the ones that want you to think they treat the chickens well are even more expensive. I know my chickens are treated well. And maybe I wouldn’t be buying several dozen eggs a week, but when I have them, I don’t need to eat them. I once saw a post on the internet that said, “Never underestimate what you can trade eggs for.” Sometimes it’s just good will, sometimes it’s something more tangible, but eggs, especially home raised eggs, have a definite value.
A larger aspect to why this question upsets me is that I am a vegetarian, and try not to kill anything. We even have a catch and release policy towards bugs in our house. (The mosquitoes the size of small bats that inhabit our area are the notable exceptions). My reasons for this decision are complicated and personal, but a big part of it has to do with not wanting animals to die on my behalf. I don’t wear a scarlet letter V on my shirt, and I generally keep my beliefs to myself, so people probably have no reason to suspect I don’t eat meat. It still seems an invasive thing to ask.
Taking this line of questioning a little further, someone even once asked me if I’m going to kill them once they stop laying eggs. I think this person must be the type who on the first date talks about what it’s going to be like after the two of you are married. Hold on a minute! You only just found out I have chickens, and now you’re already years in the future speculating about their fertility and what it means to me? Let’s back up a bit. If we look at this solely in terms of what the job of these chickens is, I’ll remind you that we got them to eat the ticks in the yard. That is their first purpose. Eggs are a nice perk, but even after they stop laying, they will still be be able to wander around eating ticks. I’m not going to fire someone because they used to make coffee in the morning when they got into the office, but then stopped. And if we killed everything that outlived its usefulness, we’d have no Congress. (*rim shot*) But these chickens are also our pets, and we don’t kill our pets. The cats haven’t caught a single mouse, but we allow them to live, the least we can do is extend that lax attitude towards job performance to the chickens.
I actually think some of it may have to do with people just not having much exposure to chickens outside of the grocery store or drive-thru. You don’t think of chickens as a pet-style animal until you meet them and see that they have as distinct personalities as any cat or dog. And it’s true, chickens are generally thought of as a food animal, so I get the reasoning, even if I don’t like it. But please people, we’re trying to have a society here. Let’s have a little tact. The answer is no one is going to kill them. And since you asked, no, you can’t have any eggs.