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Talkin’ ’bout roosters January 2, 2011

Posted by therealtinlizzy in chickens.
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I’ve posted pics and posts of about my chickens to Facebook, and yesterday a friend (who also has chickens in the city) asked about having heard that at hatcheries chickens are sexed (sorted by sex) and rooster chicks are immediately just thrown into a grinder, and indicated that made her feel a bit discomfited.

It’s one of the topics I’ve been planning on discussing here, but hadn’t gotten to it yet. In part because I find it much easier to write when I have a context for a conversation (e.g. someone asks me about s/thing) versus just writing in a vacuum to the ether. But also hadn’t gotten to it because I’m trying to be cautious and thoughtful about how I address/discuss any possibly discomfiting topics that come up as I learn more about chickens and their lots in life (whether with me or other chickens in the world), with the intent of setting a tone for meaningful conversation, not slamming the door in folks’ faces by ax-grinding or beating them about the head or being self-righteous. And I’m not here to convert or bully or anything else – I’m perfectly sanguine with differing opinions, and with folks just having different ethics that I do.

So if addressing uncomfortable topics about animals is s/thing that usually makes you run for the hills, I would hope that you don’t, and would instead read on. I don’t have all the answers, and I have my own conundrums and inconsistencies in my life to cope with, I’m certainly not going to come after any of you for your particular well-intentioned means for meandering through this life. Unless you get all sanctimonious self-righteous or defensive with me – in which case I’ll punch you in the face. In love. But face-punching no less. 🙂

Anyway – disclaimers aside, here was my response to my friend on Facebook. Nothing world-shaking or profound, just thoughts and some facts, but since she gave me the context to talk about it, might as well just cut/paste it here:

That’s exactly why I opted to not go the route of getting chix from mail-order/hatchery and to try adopting existing chickens instead. It’s true that at the hatcheries when the chix are sexed, half of the chix are males (because that’s how nature works) and they immediately toss the males into a grinder.

Which isn’t some ooga-booga story to beat folks over the head with – it’s just s/thing that folks should know before they run off and get chickens. Hell – good to know even if you’re just a consumer of eggs/chickens. And if, knowing that, a person is ethically/conscientiously ok with that scenario for acquiring chix – then at least they’re being fully informed about it.

But I get the sense that a lot of us urban chicken raising folks are a bit naive when it comes to knowing what goes on in the what/hows we get acquire our chix – fuck knows I had no idea until I looked into it. Guess I just thought that you get more hens chickens than roosters by some magic of nature. And working with Chicken Run Rescue – I’ve come to learn just how much of a problem rogue/abandoned/unwanted roosters are.

Of course there are roosters confiscated from folks fighting them, but just as often folks have ordered chix from hatcheries and they end up with one or two that were mis-sexed – who are then just let the rooster(s) loose (CRR has captured some of those) or bring them to Animal Control/Humane Society/Chicken Run. At any given moment Chicken Run is fostering 5-10 or more roosters, at the moment they have 8 or so. And of course with Mpls (and most other urban/suburban areas) not allowing roosters – there are inevitably a lot of inadvertent/unwanted/inconvenient roosters that crop up and need to be dealt with.

The batch of 14 chix that came into CRR (of which I adopted 6) included 6 roosters. I’ve provisionally taken one of the roosters (who’s too young to crow yet) with the intent to find an eventual home for him because even if I were willing to buck Mpls policies (like my neighbors who have roosters throughout the summer months), my partner is understandably not willing/able to cope with having a screechy rooster under her own window.

So yeah – it’s a tricksy issue, and s/thing I think that’s easy for us locavores/urban-homestead-wannabes (like me:) to be blithe and naive about because we really really really want to raise chickens for our own food/fun, and having s/one rain on our parade and make us deal with the discomfiting realities like “what happens to boy chickens” sucks. But I think if we truly want to be more honest with/about our food, and more closely connected to it – we have to deal with such realities and make our conscious choices accordingly.

And I’m not being shrill or brow-beating or wanting to run anyone off in broaching this stuff – my eating life (and the rest of my life) is full of contradictions and turning-a-blind-eye to inconvenient/uncomfortable realities. But I might as well start the conversation here – face to face with chickens now as I am, and starting to learn things I was previously clueless about. And I def don’t want to guilt anyone or beat ppl about the head over it, but hopefully just start some meaningful conversations about it.

Oh and one correction to make – I got my roosters numbers wrong up in my response above, I was only counting CRR’s current roosters prior to the Woodbury school batch coming in, so that puts them up around 15 roosters. Roosters that no one wants because you can’t have them in the city, and are hard to place even if looking to folks with farms/flocks outside of the city.

So my opining aside, the boiler-plated facts to ponder are these:

1) half of all chix hatched are roosters. No way around it.

2) We all (whether chicken raisers, egg eaters, or chicken eaters) have a hand, however far-removed, from the fact that our system/use of chickens is not sustainable for all of the roosters hatched. Mass numbers of roosters are destroyed because we have no use for them.

So not going all bleeding heart actually – I really do have my own complicated ethics of animals as a food source. I’m pro (other-people) hunting (for food purposes), and like I’ve mentioned – my dogs live on a diet of raw meat, which I have to acquire by (even if someone else) killing animals. So I’m not completely opposed to animals being used as a food source. But I think we should have to grapple with the ethics of our choices – which will lead to either coming to peace about the things even if/when they discomfit us, or to make entirely different choices altogether. Or perhaps a combination of the two where instead of settling for “how it is”, we opt to make choices and spin circumstances which may take more intention and effort, but end up being more mindful, more honorable, and less cruel/suck.

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Comments»

1. Stefanie - January 2, 2011

Look at your cute little rooster! I think Mpls should let people keep roosters as long as they get the approval of neighbors, who cares? Like I mentioned before, one summer there was a rooster and hens a few houses down from me and the whole neighborhood loved it. Are there other ways to get chickens besides from hatcheries? Like from a regular old farm or a small-scale and humane chicken breeder? Sometimes I think the little roosters getting offed early get the most humane end given the conditions the majority of those hens will be living in.

therealtinlizzy - January 3, 2011

I know – he’s so handsome, and very rooster-ly. He’s got lots to say even without crowing yet :).

o’course yes there are ways to get chickens besides hatcheries, which is what led me to CRR in the first place, in addition to sniffing up some other folks I know who have small hobby farms. The friend with chix who asked about hatcheries got hers from her kid’s kindergarten class (similar to my sitch). She said someone in the teacher’s family has an organic farm and brought/gave eggs to class (oddly with no intent to take them back after hatchling), and she and another parent took the chicks (which included 4 roosters) after they hatched. They eventually ended up giving the 4 roosters over to someone willing to take them for slaughter. So no matter – even if chicks are gotten from not-hatcheries, there still end up with roosters to be dealt with (slaughtered sooner or later, or adopted off elsewhere) as you can’t easily have lots of them like you can hens. And maybe that’s ok under a rubric where chickens will need to be slaughtered anyway.

And yeah, you make a good point about the rooster chix checking out immediately versus the lot of the hens that go on to be in the factory system (which I know you’re not saying, you’re just saying).

blah blah, I know – I’m peddling a lot of childish sort of “zomg hey everyone look what I learned!”, am trying not to be too overwrought in my eureka moments ;). Nor too naive/unbearable/quick to just make sweeping generalizations just on learning a few factoids.

2. para - January 4, 2011

this is a tricksy issue, because in the wild, roosters would kill eachother off to the point of having one rooster per brood– and the alpha rooster would kill any of the rooster-chicks right away, so this half-male hatchling set which naturally occurs would still lend itself to mass murder of the males (albeit in the natural one rooster killing another kind of way). I don’t have an answer for this, nor do I think it makes the mass chicken business any less dastardly, but I think it’s worth noting that irrespective of human influence (which is utterly impossible for chx now, having been bred and modified to human purposes, but I’m digressing), this male death/ostracization from group is pretty fucking natural among many species. It doesn’t make it right, or mean that because it happens naturally we don’t have to give a shit and just order chx whenver we fucking want them, but it is fact that roosters exist to fucking kill eachother. If chickens exist, then roosters kill.

therealtinlizzy - January 5, 2011

Para – you make good points. This rooster topic causes a not insubstantial wreck at the intersection of my internal ethics where my bleeding-heart and circle-of-life sensibilities run red lights on each other. Your points hit my circle-of-life notions, and make me think – well yes of course you’re right.

And I guess that’s it – it’s not purely killing/dying of roosters (or creatures in the world generally) that bother me in all this. Like you said, that’s how nature works, when it happens in the wild anyway. And I’m not against euthanizing animals in general (roosters, dogs, cats, whatever) as (I feel) a more humane and preferred route than just leaving them to horrid or even just neverendingly homeless circumstances. And the prospect of roosters killed as humanely as possible (if that’s even possible) as food – doesn’t bother me. But crunching up rooster chix mindlessly (and generally because we humans need MOAR hens for eggs looks to me like one more symptom of humans fucking things up.

Which isn’t quite what you were speaking to, just what I’m tangenting off on, dangling prepositions and all :).

3. Ginny G - January 11, 2011

I’m actually not sure I want to know the answer to this, and I guess I could get off my lazy duff and Google it myself, but do you know what happens to the ground up baby roosters?

therealtinlizzy - January 14, 2011

I assume (having not done my own homework fully on the matter) that they’re used like other chicken by-products/remnants that come out of and get recycled back into the system in the form of feed, low grade dog food, etc. I should actually look it up….


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