I’ve been thinking about what I wrote yesterday. I believe that animals have innate natures that deserve respect. Unfortunately, people often have their own needs and agendas that they superimpose on animals. You see it with the folks who believe that wolves operate on a higher moral scale than people, or that dolphins are spiritual messengers or that dogs are children. (I don’t understand why people who love animals want them to be something other than what they are. I promise to stop here and not rant against PETA.)
We are caretakers of the animals in our lives and they thrive when we understand what it is that they need. With chickens, you can take care of the basics, like food and water, shelter and a place to take dust baths. They’ll be healthy and lay eggs. They’ll be fine, really, and I am understanding of farmers who have to straddle the economic line between care and financial survival.
But those of us with backyard hens have the wherewithal to do more. Give chickens enough space to safely sort out their pecking order and they will develop lasting friendships with other hens. (And yes, for you scientists out there, it is quantifiable. Do a study and see who hangs out with whom.) Give them an enriched environment, with places to explore and wriggly food to scratch for and you will have chickens that are alert and active, busy and chatty. Keep them company, pick them up, talk to them, and feed them tidbits, and you will have hens that are expectant that good things will appear when you do.
Add all of that up, and what you get is a backyard with hens that have obvious, unique personalities (there will be the shy one, the opportunistic one, the one who wants to be held.) You will have talkative, busy, silly, pushy, demanding, delightful animals in your life. And the best tasting eggs ever. I define that as happiness for both hen and owner.