|Sadly, aging chickens have never been a problem for us.|
Today I do have something to write about. In the comments, Ida asked me what I thought about this impassioned post criticizing people who want backyard chickens -- but don't want to deal with them once they stop laying. The owners no longer want to pay for the hens' upkeep, but are too wimpy to kill them. So they try to give them away. The author thinks this is bogus:
"There is absolutely nothing ethically superior – and quite a bit that is ethically dubious, if you ask me – about enjoying the benefits of a young laying hen and then turning over the care or slaughter of that hen to someone else once it stops laying.
That is not how animal husbandry works and it’s not how pet ownership works, and those are your two choices. I don’t care which path you take with your chickens, but pick one. Playing Little Suzy Farm Girl until it’s time to get the axe and then deciding you aren’t up for chicken ownership just doesn’t fly with me."
Well, it flies with me. First of all, if you can find someone who wants to adopt and feed your old hens, great. I don't see what's ethically dubious about "turning over the care" of superannuated chickens to someone who wants to take them. It seems like a win-win-win situation.
Or would be if these people existed. If they do, I haven't met them. The author is correct that when your hens stop laying, you will probably have to either suck it up and keep them on as expensive pets or kill them.
But unlike the author, I don't think there's any reason you have to do the killing yourself if you don't want to. What's the point? To prove something? To punish yourself? You kept chickens for eggs and probably gave them a really nice life, however short, and enjoyed their company and now that's over. There are people who will happily take those birds off your hands. I don't think turning the slaughter over to them is unethical. I think it's sensible. You're giving someone a flavorful stewing hen they will enjoy eating and sparing yourself an experience you won't enjoy having. The only loser here is the old chicken, but that was a foregone conclusion.
We've never faced the problem of aging chickens as they've all been eaten by bobcats or contracted fatal illnesses before they stopped laying. I don't know what we'll do if we ever find ourselves with a bunch of elderly hens. Probably keep them. I don't even pretend to be a real farmer.
P.S. I just read through many of the comments on the original post and someone makes the same argument I just did. The author responded very civilly and said she should have worded the piece differently. She objects to people who won't make the DECISION to kill an old hen. She doesn't mean they have to kill it themselves. So there's no real disagreement at all.