Growing your own food is an eye opening process. When you finally pick that head of cabbage, you appreciate all that cabbage did to grow from a tiny seed to an impressive plant with a plump head.
On March 31 of this year, Margaret’s eggs hatched. On April 2, when she brought her chicks out to show them the world, one of her chicks made me laugh. It looked like a skunk with a stripe running from the top of its head down its back, stripes on its tiny wings, and long streaks of mascara shooting out the corners of its eyes. Skunky. It’s what I named it.
Skunky was the first chick I’d seen with Tammy Faye eyes. Curious as to what kind of chicken Skunky was going to become, I watched it carefully. I had no idea if it was going to turn into a stunning rooster or elegant hen or whatever. You never know what a chick will look like when it grows up.
Skunky was nothing like its siblings. Most of my hens hatch chicks from an assortment of eggs. Mother hens love all of their chicks equally well, no matter how differently they look.
At two weeks of age, Skunky’s wings feathered out and showed a delicate lace-like pattern.
Skunky was a happy chick, running around with its siblings, taking long naps in the grass, and hopping on its mother back, something little chicks like to do.
There is a lot of talk about raising chickens humanely. But no one claiming their chicken is raised humanely even considers the need chicks have for hopping on their mother’s back. I suppose it’s because none of them have ever seen a mother hen raise her chicks outdoors. Is it possible to raise chickens humanely without mother hens? Observing over the last five years how much mother hens and chicks interact over the one to three months the hens raise their brood, I can’t imagine denying chicks the joys of being raised by a mother hen.
In a July 31, 2015, New York Times article, “Perdue Sharply Cuts Antibiotic Use in Chickens and Jabs at Its Rivals”, Jim Perdue, third generation of the Perdue family to run the Perdue poultry giant, is quoted as saying, “What you think is humane treatment of an animal and what I think is humane treatment of an animal can be different.”
No kidding. You’ll find a video of one of Perdue’s factory farms at Chicken factory farmer speaks out.
By the time she was five weeks old, it was clear Skunky was a hen with an air of elegance. Her Tammy Faye eyes were vanishing. At two months of age, she cut a stunning figure.
She’s four months old now and spends much of the time in the tall grasses and in the woods. On warm nights she likes roosting in a sequoia tree. A few more months and she should be laying eggs. Eggs from a truly humanely raised chicken.
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