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Stating the Obvious

First there’s the egg. Then there’s the free-range chicken. Then there’s the happy lady, eating said eggs from the above free-range chicken (that’s my gal Georgette, looking so fine!). It’s public knowledge to those of us living in the United States that yet another massive salmonella outbreak has occurred, this time with factory-farmed eggs as the offending party. Over 550 million eggs have been recalled so far, with nearly 2,000 folks in 17 states falling victim to the illness.

For most of us, the virus inflicts gastric distress, but for others, such as those who are pregnant, elderly, young, or with otherwise compromised immune systems, Salmonella can be downright deadly. Research has indicated that the responsible party, Jack DeCoster of Wright County Egg in Iowa, has a far-reaching history of animal safety and welfare violations. To say that all of this sickness and pain and heartache could have been avoided by basic coop hygiene and animal consideration is truly stating the obvious.

The reasons many of us go into keeping a flock of backyard birds are highly variable. Maybe it’s just for the food source. Maybe it’s for engendering a more direct connection between livestock and their food products. Maybe it’s to collect droppings for compost enrichment or have a ready army of bug “dispatchers” on hand for your garden. Whatever your reason, I know, without question, that an overarching concern is for animal welfare. Chickens that are lovingly tended to, in humane living conditions, fed quality food, allowed to preen and groom in dust baths and run around their coops getting sunlight and exercise, monitored for signs of distress, and treated like the glorious, productive, prolific, unique sentient creatures that they are produce more nutritious eggs, generally stay free of illness, and live better lives.

While Mr. DeCoster has a lot to learn about treating living creatures with respect, the rest of us have a mission of another sort. If you’re already on board with keeping a flock of chickens, then you’re no doubt reaping daily the results of your mindful decision. Our mutual goal is to tout the value of humanely, ethically raised chickens far and wide. Our families, our communities, our farms, our planet, and our health will be all the better for it.

*Last image by Lynne Harty courtesy of Lark Crafts.
*If you’re looking for some chicken-tendering advice, check out my book, “Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need To Know To Care For A Happy, Healthy Flock.”

20 Responses to Stating the Obvious

  • Joy says:

    It is sickening to realize how animals are treated for the sake of industry. Stories like this ( evoke such sorrow and shock. Thanks for your post, and also for being a person who provides an alternative to factory farmed products.

  • Joy says:

    It is sickening to realize how animals are treated for the sake of efficiency and industry. Stories like this ( from my own hometown are shocking and nauseating. Thank you for your post, and also for being a person who offers an alternative to factory-farmed products.

  • taylorgirl6 says:

    Our hens bring us so much more than just eggs. They are joyful, humorous, oddly intelligent creatures, and I cannot envision a future without them.

  • Trish says:

    I to love my backyard chickens (even though the council doesn't allow urban chickens – shhh don't tell them). The lovely chicken you have pictured is identical to my chicky (the kids named her). With nine hens we keep four families in eggs all year round. My chicken have heaps of space in their run and are allowed out for several hours everyday and all day on the weekends. I'd love to see more backyard chickens.

  • Jill Benbow says:

    a heartfelt AMEN. I hope more people become aware of where their factory farmed products are coming from thanks to this recent outbreak and demand immediate change (and stop buying those “products”)!

  • sk says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Well said. We have a long way to go in this country in terms of providing healthy and humane food to our people. The more I learn about egg production, the more I tell people that we should NOT be buying eggs from the grocery store. EVER. Not even organic brands!
    I love my hens and am so happy to give them my organic, hand-ground feed and let them run around our yard all day (and then eat their delicious, orange-yolked eggs)!

  • Paula says:

    I hope that DeCoster goes to jail for a very long time. His is criminal neglect!

    It would also set a precedent and example to other animal abusers…

  • Chassie says:

    AMEN! Very well put and I couldn't agree more. It is so terrible what factory farmed animals go through. I only hope that cases like this help open eyes. I wish everyday that I could have my own broad of chickens…one day…one day.

  • sylvï says:

    in a strange way, when things go from bad to worse, there is at least the hope of change when awareness turns to outrage.

    i'd love to keep chicken but my concrete balcony is not quite the place. but i love reading about more and more people turning to small-scale farmers. it feeds my dreams.

  • EcoGrrl says:

    chicken sitting this week for the first time – everyone should do this before adopting chickens, for real – they are not low maintenance! love it but have a much better understanding for what it takes!

    and the news is so amazed that factory farming has led to recalls of eggs and meat? oy vey. hopefully this will spur great change, but i'm doubtful.

  • Andrea says:

    My hubby just built us a chicken coop..I am glad to find the book here ! I am going to need some help… after watching the food inc movie ..I couldn't think of eating eggs or chicken that weren't your own or organic.

  • Thanks for your post. I've been wanting chickens for years, but we are city dwellers and I'm a rule follower. I'll live vicariously through you and Trish (and her civil disobedience), but buy my eggs at our Downtown Market!

  • nicole says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful and timely post. This is one of the many reasons I switched over to buying local, small farm eggs years ago. I know exactly where my eggs come from! Hopefully this scare will help many others realize the value of food awareness.

  • Anonymous says:

    A friend of mine told me that all chickens have lice and it's impossible to get rid of. Is this true?

  • Anonymous-It is absolutely not true that all chickens have lice. Chickens kept in squalor most likely do, though, such as those kept where the Salmonella outbreak occurred. Leg lice and mites can be issues for small flocks whose living conditions aren't kept clean. Simple, basic coop hygiene will prevent that from happening, though.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for answering my question. Owning chickens is one of my goals for the future. :)

    Also, FYI…there is a interesting article on CNN this morning called “The face of cage free farming in Florida”

    Nice to know there are “big” farms out there doing the right way.

  • Janna says:

    Very well said. We live in a small intown neighborhood in Atlanta (just skirting the official downtown area) and keep a flock of 6 backyard chickens. My kids pointed out just yesterday that if every family who has even a little space kept a small flock and shared or sold their extra eggs we could eliminate these awful factory egg farms where the chickens are so poorly treated. What an awesome idea.

  • Dolly says:

    I wish everyone could experience raising chickens! We have had such a wonderful time with ours!
    Thanks for the great post!

    Hugz, Dolly

  • We have been wanting chickens in our backyard! But we have neighbors very close by! Luckily we also have woods in our backyard! Our main concern is for the neighbors: Are the chickens (more their coop and well, poop) smelly enough to bother the neighbors? I suppose we would only need a couple or a few for our average 3-4 egg consumption a day. But if they are going to be smelly, maybe a few more so that we can share fresh eggs with the neighbs…………….? Ok so how smelly are they? Even if theyre not that smelly, all the more reason to share!

  • Anna-Small flocks of chickens barely smell at all. Their droppings are what give off a stench and if you stay on top of collecting them, or use the “deep litter” method of bedding like i do, the smell isn't an issue at all. It's when you're dealing with larger flocks and unsanitary conditions that smell can become a concern.