The Chicken Whisperer Is In

Recently, some friends of mine got a few little chicks to add to their small collection of poultry because they were in need of hens to balance the gender ratio of their brood.  I was sympathetic to the plight of a rooster having too few hens, and was greatly amused when I found the chicks to be noisy in their temporary home, chattering with each other in the box continually and showing themselves to be fuzzy and curious about what was around them.  I have always found it deeply interesting to wonder about the thinking and behavior of chickens [1], and have always wondered what it said about me.  After all, I am essentially a predator of chickens, fond of eating them in meals containing meat and eggs.  My solicitude for their well-being is merely an indirect solicitude for my own, and if I admire that a chicken looks healthy there is at least the potential that I am thinking about how tasty and large the servings of said chicken would be on my plate.  I wonder if vegetarians look at the growth of kale in their garden with the same eye as I view the maturation and development of fine roaster chickens.

It so happens that I was not the only one at this particular place for the Night To Be Much Observed that was fond of chickens.  Indeed, one of our members and her two elementary school-age daughters came over to spend the night as well, and both of the girls showed themselves to be deeply fond of chickens.  Of course, their fondness of chickens was far different from my own.  Although I consider myself to be relatively benign as far as predators of poultry go, I recognize my own predatory instincts and freely acknowledge them.  The girls themselves, although they certainly both eat meat, have not made the link between their enjoyment of meat on a personal level and the predation of the sources of that meat on the abstract and theorectical level.  Indeed, they were fond of the chickens as beings, wanting to hold them, put the little chicks on their shoulder, or pet the birds which were far more quiet when removed from the noisy confines of their confederates.  It was fascinating to see, although not always enjoyable when they tried to put the birds on my shoulders or on top of my balding head.

And so, when I called the girls chicken whisperers, they were quite fond of taking the title for themselves.  They seemed genuinely interested in the little birds and their well-being, comforting them with gentle words and expressions in order to encourage the birds to feel safe and comfortable, and hoping to see the birds cuddle gently in their sleep in the living room where the girls themselves and their mother spent the night.  It was interesting to see the girls think of the chickens as little beings with their own personalities and not merely as the representative class of alert future egg-laying hens.  I think that in order to be good at dealing with the psychology or moods of beings that one needs to be interested in them as beings and not merely as labels and categories.  Being interested in them as beings gives us far deeper pleasures than can be known by utilitarians that simply view them to be means to an end, namely the filling of our own belly.  They may indeed be tasty someday, but for the moment they are communicative fuzzy birds that appear to have some sort of instinctive emotional response to those around them.

And that is a lesson that I think is more widely applicable.  There is a temptation for all of us to view other beings, whether they are chickens or something else, merely in terms of the gratification of our own hunger.  The children of Israel could have come to view the eating of the Passover lamb as simply a tasty meal and not thought of the implications of what God asked of them and what that meant for what God would do in providing Jesus Christ as a Passover lamb to take away the sins of the world, which are many.  When we come to view chickens or other animals or little people as beings in their own right and not merely as means to an end, we are faced with some deeply interesting mysteries.  It is a lot more difficult to kill animals that one is fond of, and so objectification is a way that a predator reduces the moral guilt of their own predation.  If we do not see other beings as beings, it is a lot easier to do what we will to them.  Once we see them as beings, we are forced to examine the morality of what we do in that light, and even if it does not make us vegetarians of some stripe, it at least reminds us that sometimes in order to live as we wish, something else must suffer and die, and that ought to be openly acknowledged as well.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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