International Respect for Chickens Day: A rooster crows for the first time
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Today is the 8th annual International Respect for Chickens Day as declared by United Poultry Concerns back in 2005. In honour of this special holiday, I decided to write about a chicken I’ve known personally.
In 2007, a little chick was rescued from the alley behind a slaughterhouse by local activists Tanya and Jason Halvorson. He was beside a garbage can full of dead chickens and assorted body parts, which he had presumably fallen out of. A river of blood ran down the alleyway.
Chickens raised for food are slaughtered at 45 days of age. (Organic, free-range birds are generally killed at the same age or a few weeks later.) Thanks to selective breeding, they reach adult-size while they are just babies. Their bones and joints cannot keep up with the pace of their rapidly-growing bodies, and many are lame long before they reach slaughter age. Respiratory problems and heart attacks are common, as their breast muscles grow so large that their internal organs are crushed. It’s likely that Hope didn’t grow quickly enough for whatever reason and so was tossed into the garbage with other chickens that were somehow unsuitable for sale.
Hope was one of the lucky ones. After Tanya and Jason rescued him, he was taken in by Glenn Gaetz and Joanne Chang, where he grew to adulthood in warmth, safety, and comfort. As an adult he was moved to Rest-Q Sanctuary (which was located on Mayne Island at the time) so that he would have the space, outdoor access, and social interaction that chickens need.
Like I mentioned before, chickens slaughtered for food are just babies. Perhaps there is no more tragic evidence of this than the fact that they are still peeping like little chicks as they go to their deaths. For Hope, the situation was different.
When he was about six months old, it happened. We were over at Joanne and Glenn’s house with some other friends, eating and chatting and watching Hope lounge on a pillow. With no warning whatsoever, he stood, began jerking his head around, and then suddenly threw it back, opened his beak, and crowed triumphantly! The room went silent and he looked over at us, very possibly as surprised as we were by this new development. For the rest of the afternoon, he crowed at intervals, apparently revelling in his recently discovered talent. Not long after that, he started doing it all the time. Lots of people are under the impression that roosters only crow in the morning. The truth is that while they do crow in the early hours, they will also crow very enthusiastically throughout the day. This is another reason that Hope went to a sanctuary!
Had his life followed the normal trajectory of a broiler chicken, Hope would have died months and months before he even had a chance to crow.
He lived about a year-and-a-half, a pretty long time for a broiler chicken. Chickens can live 10 years or more, but broilers’ bodies give out long before then. Like so many others before him, Hope died from a heart attack. Unlike billions of his sisters and brothers, however, he knew kindness, freedom, safety, and friendship before he passed on.
So on International Respect for Chickens Day, do an action for chickens! Take a moment to talk to your friends and family. Write a letter to the editor. Remind everyone that chickens are brave, smart, and sociable animals who protect their friends and love their babies just like we do.
For more ideas of how to honour chickens today, check out United Poultry Concerns here.