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.
*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."