Is the Hen Trend about to End?
Is it my imagination or is the trend of keeping backyard chickens on the wane? This is obviously a very difficult thing to measure. But I ask the question for a basic reason. In the last month two hen keepers I know well have announced that they’re phasing hens out of their lives. Not a statistically significant sample, but perhaps a harbinger?
Both have found safe homes for many, but not all, of their birds. The ones that remain behind, not surprisingly, are finished laying eggs and, because it would traumatize the kids,they’re also immune to becoming dinner. They are, in essence, a major headache. One that will be around for another decade for these well-intentioned but misled locavores.
Unlike my friends, many hen keepers acquired their birds on a lark. They saw a show on television, read an article or two, digested one too many foodie books, or decided they had to “know where my food comes from.” The wave of support that encouraged the hen trend abjectly failed to come with warning labels. It’s sooo easy, everyone said. And now the truth is coming home to roost: it’s not. There are realities that the media never mentioned. These birds might be self-sufficient in the wild, but not in your little crabgrass frontier.
Chickens get killed by dogs, hawks, snakes, and foxes. That’s a bummer. The kids get attached to the chickens and when they stop laying eggs you cannot slaughter them without racking up psychological bills for life. When you head to the Cape for the summer, you now have to pay someone to care for them. Your colleagues get over the novelty of eating local eggs. The calm hen turned out to be a crazy rooster and your neighbors now hate you. Hen or rooster, their poop sort of stinks.
Humans may be gullible but we’re not stupid. Given that enough clueless consumers bought hens, and given that the downsides have had plenty of time to sink in, perhaps we can take some solace in the prospect that maybe, just maybe, my friends aren’t alone in saying “never again.”
tomorrow: a report on my bill and lou project (and a request)