Noun: Due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights of others.
Verb: A way of treating or thinking about something or someone.
Today, May 4th, is International Respect for Chickens Day and May is Respect for Chickens Month.
So what does that mean? For me, its about maximizing the quality of life for the birds we keep as pets or food, or for the poultry we buy. It’s a recognition that as another species they have their own needs and ways of being and trying to provide for them within the context of domestication.
Some people refer to large-scale poultry producers as commercial growers, I see it as factory farming where the goal is profit, at the expense of the birds produced. Millions of chickens around the world are kept in substandard conditions.
Chickens are one of the most popular, and widely raised, livestock raised for meat. In 2018, the global production of meat birds was 123,000 tons and is predicted to increase to 50% of all meat consumed by 2025. Meat birds are raised to grow fast, while putting on lots of weight, and be ready for slaughter at 6-8 weeks. This fast growth presents a myriad of health issues for birds that are so short lived. Sudden Death Syndrome, or Flip Over Disease is common. Needless to say, the conditions that they live in are often inhumane.
The egg industry requires only female birds, so millions of male chicks are killed at hatch. Layers are kept in tiny cages that offer them no quality of life. As chicken keepers, we know where our eggs come from. If you don’t have chickens, then buy from sources that offer a good life for their birds. If you eat poultry endeavour to buy ethically raised birds; support your local farmers where birds are free-ranged and have a decent life while they are alive.
For us small scale chicken keepers, respect is translated into understanding and providing for the needs of our bird: hygienic conditions, care for medical issues, clean water and proper diet, providing them with companionship – our own, as well as from other birds. As much as we might love our birds being realistic about our expectations, and limitations, is a good thing for both them and us. Too often ‘chicken math‘ gets the better of some folks and they are not able to provide the level of care required due to lack of time and energy.
Suffering is subjective. I’ve seen calls to euthanize a bird that would recover with a bit of TLC and medical care and others who allow their birds to linger, in pain without a quality of life, because they can’t face having to end their suffering. Euthanizing an animal is never easy, but to allow them to die without pain, fear or no prospect for a good life, is a good thing. Providing a good life should be our goal and when that is no longer allowing them to have a good death is equally important.
For whatever purpose, and for however long, we have them our goal should always be to provide the best life possible.