My dog saved me from a dragon May 15, 2015

Today we’re going to talk about factory farm chickens. But first, a story. It will tie in; just bear with me.

Yesterday, my little dog Reggie saved me from a dragon. Well, not a dragon, of course, but it may as well have been as far as he was concerned! We were taking our usual hike through our woods, and he dashed forward and woofed at something. That normally means “I see you!” or “Did you smell that, Mom?”… followed a big doggie grin at me before moving on. He’s usually trying to draw my attention to something like a chipmunk, squirrel, wild turkey, or bunny, etc.

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I smell a squirrel who has been dining on hickory nuts and rose hips.

That day I continued along after his bark, as I usually do.  But instead of going on along with me, he put himself directly in my path and began barking at ME.

This. THIS is unusual.

Reggie the dog, Reggie the AWESOME dog - Cavalier Spaniel

I’m a lover, not a barker.

So I stopped and took a look around, only to notice the 5 foot long black snake he’d been barking at, half in the underbrush and half on the path. My loyal little dog was determined to save me from a serpent—a dragon!

“Good boy,” I told him, “what a good dog. Thanks, Reggie!” And he was instantly all wiggles and wags, although he woofed another bark at the dragon for good measure.

It wasn’t deadly danger. After all, black snakes are not normally aggressive… they’re actually pretty nice to have around, since they eat rodents. Still, it’s true I might have stepped on it by accident. I had been looking up and enjoying the locust blossoms; I hadn’t been looking at the path. The snake slithered off and we went on home. Reggie had an extra spring in his step and a waggy tail all day.

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You showed that dragon, Reg! Yes you did! Yes, you did!

Now, clearly this is not the most heroic dog story you’ve ever heard. He didn’t save me from a fire, or lead me to a drowning kitten. He didn’t throw himself between me and an attacking lion. But, you know, he would have. He’s a dog, and dogs do that stuff.

How chickens tie in

So, you may be wondering why I shared this dog story on a post I claimed was about factory farm chickens. Yes?

Well, let me ask you: why don’t we eat dogs? Shocking question, right? Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting we begin. I’m just pointing out that it’s not because we’ve determined dogs taste bad, or that they’re bad for you. Our reason for not eating dogs has nothing to do with taste. It’s cultural. We like dogs. In fact, we love them. Our stories about dogs are positive. We know dogs are smart, and helpful, and affectionate. We love them, and they love us. And many of us had dogs growing up, or our neighbors did. Or we saw Lassie on TV, or read Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows.

Chickens, by contrast, are not depicted the same way in this country. And yet, they’re smart—smarter than toddlers are, and smarter than dogs and cats in some areas. They’re affectionate—at least as affectionate as dogs. And they’re helpful. While my backyard pet chickens are probably not going to warn me about dragons or fight off any lions, they’re helpful in other ways. For example, they not only control pests and provide fertilizer, but they make me breakfast.

beautiful eggs

The prettiest durn breakfast you’ve ever seen!

The main difference, as far as I can see, is that people in this country don’t have a lot of personal exposure to chickens. Few people had chickens as pets growing up, and few had neighbors with pet chickens. When people think of chickens, they picture dirty, stinky, miserable factory farm chickens… and neglect to realize that they’re dirty, stinky, miserable factory farm chickens BECAUSE of the factory farms…  they are not in factory farms because they are dirty, stinky and miserable. Chickens like to keep themselves clean and are naturally fastidious when given a clean environment.

free range chickens v factory farm chickens

Factory farm chickens do NOT live like this–even when the eggs are labeled “free range.”

Our media experience with chickens chiefly includes the insufferable Foghorn Leghorn (where “leghorn” is even mispronounced), and his dimwitted wannabe love interest, Prissington Buff Orpington Cochin China Pullet III— otherwise known as Miss Prissy. We don’t hear stories about real or even imaginary chickens and how they help us. In fact, most people don’t even realize that chickens are helpful (in any way other than providing eggs and meat). Instead, people often think of chickens as stupid and dirty.

This is why keeping backyard chickens can change the world. Or at least the country. As more people keep chickens, more people will be exposed to how smart and cool they are, and what good pets they make.

adaughtersilkie

So in addition to reducing the reliance on eggs produced inhumanely in factory farms, backyard chicken keepers are actively showing people that chickens are not just egg factories. Right now, more chickens are killed for food–more than 9 billion, billion with a B!–than any other animal in this country. By comparison, about 40 million, million with an M, of cattle are killed each year.  Despite that, chickens are not even protected by the Humane Slaughter Act like other “food animals” are. Why is that? I just can’t wrap my head around it.

Now, I’m not a vegan, or a vegetarian. I’m not making an argument that we should all be vegans, vegetarians, or even that we should stop eating chicken. My point is moderate. All I’m saying is that where meat and eggs are produced commercially, humane treatment should be a standard.

People think of chickens as dirty, dumb animals, when nothing could be further from the truth. So, the more  exposure folks have to affectionate, smart, funny PET chickens, the more likely it will be that conditions will change in factory farms. That means that keeping backyard chickens is changing things for the better. If you keep backyard chickens, feel good about that: YOU are helping not just your chickens, but you’re helping to brng attention to the plight of factory farm chickens.

How long do you think it will take before we see “broiler” chickens protected by the Humane Slaughter Act? How long until battery cages are illegal everywhere… 20 years? 5? 2? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

3 Comments
Joanna January 21st, 2016

what breeds laid those eggs?

Lissa January 25th, 2016

Let’s see… If I recall correctly, they were laid by a Rhode Island Red (brown), a Speckled Sussex (pale cream), a Faverolles, (pinkish, she was the only one that laid that strong of a pink color) a Favaucana (sage green), an Ameraucana (blue), and an Easter Egger (medium green with blue speckles).

daisy April 12th, 2018

What a loyal little dog, “Good boy” Reggie

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