In this essay, I discuss the social life of chickens and the mental states that I believe they have and need in order to participate in the social relationships that I have observed in them. What follows is a personalized, candid discussion of what I know, what I think I know, and what I am unsure of but have observed relevant to the minds of chickens in their relationships with each other and with other species and with me.
That version of me got her start online as my social media persona, but over time (and I suppose for the sake of consistency), she bled off the screen and overtook my real-life personality, too. And once you master what is essentially an onstage performance of yourself, it can be hard to break character.
In my first years of keeping chickens there were no predators, until a fox found us, and we built our fences - but only after eleven chickens disappeared rapidly under our nose. The fox would sneak up in broad daylight, raising a clamor among the birds. Running out of the house I’d see no stalker, just sometimes a soul-stabbing bunch of feathers on the ground in the midst of panic. When our bantam rooster Josie was taken, his companion Alexandra ran shrieking through the kitchen, jumped up on a table and could not stop shrieking and was never the same afterward. The fox killed Pola, our big red rooster who had so gallantly responded to my calls begging him to “save” me from Ruby. I am sure he was attacked while trying to protect his hens the day he disappeared, while I sat obliviously at the computer. It was too much. I sat on the kitchen floor crying and screaming. At the time, I was caring for Sonja, a big white warm-natured, bouncy hen I was treating for wounds she’d received before I rescued her. As I sat on the floor exploding with grief and guilt, Sonja walked over to where I sat weeping. She nestled her face next to mine and began purring with the ineffable soft purr that is also a trill in chickens. She comforted me even as her gesture deepened the heartache I was feeling in that moment about the painful mystery of Pola and the mystery of all chickens. Did Sonja know why I was crying? I doubt it, but maybe she did. Did she know that I was terribly sad and distressed? There is no question in my mind about that. She responded to my grief with an expression of empathy that I have carried emotionally in my life ever since.
Roosters are so energetic and solicitous toward their hens, so intensely focused on every aspect of their social life together that one of the saddest things to see is a rooster in a state of decline due to age, illness or both. An aging or ailing rooster who can no longer hold his own in the flock suffers severely. He droops, and I have even heard a rooster cry over his loss of place and prestige within his flock. This is what happened to our rooster Jules - “Gentleman Jules,” as my husband fondly named him - who came to our sanctuary in the following way.
Intentionality in chickens is shown in many ways. An example is a hen’s desire not only to lay an egg, but to lay her egg in a particular place with a particular group of hens, or in a secluded spot she has chosen - and she has definitely chosen it. I’ve watched hens delay laying their egg until they got where they wanted to be. Conscious or not at the outset, once the intention has been formed, the hen is consciously and emotionally committed to accomplishing it. No other interpretation of her behavior makes sense by comparison. Sarah, for example, a white leghorn hen from a battery-cage egg-laying operation who came to our sanctuary with osteoporosis and a broken leg, was determined, as she grew stronger, to climb the front stairs of our house, one laborious step at a time, just so that she could lay her egg behind the toilet in the bathroom next to the second floor landing. This was a hen, remember, who had never known anything before in her life but a crowded metal cage among thousands of cages in a windowless building. I was Sarah’s friendly facilitator. I cheered her on, and the interest I showed in her and her wishes and successes was a critical part of her recovery, both physical and mental.
In conclusion, this essay explored the effect of the internet on people's lives in the last decade and found that the advantages of the internet far overshadow the disadvantages. It found the internet has had positive effects on family life, allowing the hands on parenting of pre-school children by those parents who are able to use the internet to work from home. In addition, it has reinforced the extended family by harnessing email and social networking sites as a means to stay in direct contact. Furthermore, blogs, chat rooms and video links have offered an alternative to attendance at religious services, which have suffered such rapid decline in recent times. Another positive effect of the internet is its ability to re-assert national identity, particularly for those living abroad, as they retain remote access to the home culture by being able to download or stream current affairs or local drama. Finally, the internet enhances multiculturalism by offering an alternative to mainstream media representations of the norm to those who identify as 'the other'. Arguments which support the negative impact of the internet on people's lives in the 21st century focus on very narrow aspects and fail to acknowledge the broad range of benefits the internet has borne on contemporary society.
I was in contact with a social worker for about a year in 2010-11. This was the worst crisis point of my mum’s life, when she was still living at home thinking she was independent but couldn’t look after herself at all, and I was living 100 miles away.
I think of this essay often in my daily life. If I have one operating philosophy about life it is this: “Be cool to the pizza delivery dude; it’s good luck.” Four principles guide the pizza dude philosophy.Principle 1: Coolness to the pizza delivery dude is a practice in humility and forgiveness.
The social work involvement began before I came into care, when we were really tiny. The majority of residential and area social workers that I had in my life I just loved. I was so attached to them, both emotionally and physically.
When social work is bad it’s very bad and we all hear about it. When it’s good, we don’t hear about it. The only reason you’re hearing about this good bit of social work is because I managed to make a success of my life, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that without Jenni.
But the worker who really stands out functioned as my leaving care worker but was a social worker by trade. She had knowledge of my rights, and she taught them to me, and I am forever grateful to her for that: it was the thing that genuinely made a huge difference to my life. It gave me power in a situation where I was pretty powerless, and it gave me the ability to understand what the system should be providing and where it was falling down.
Firstly, in the last ten years, modern family life has been enhanced by developments in technology, and the internet is no exception. The advent of the internet affords parents the opportunity to use the World Wide Web to work from home, removing the need to place pre-school age children in day care centres in the care of strangers and so reinforcing the family unit (Jenkins 2010). However, the benefits of the internet not only have implications for immediate family; members of the extended family can overcome the barriers of time or distance to remain close through such channels as email or social networking sites, for example Facebook. Despite this, Fenech (2007) asserts that the internet has eroded some aspects of family life. Where previous generations may have forsaken dinner conversation in order to watch television together, the practical dimensions of a laptop screen now preclude this act of "togetherness" (p342). Nevertheless, any avenue that generally allows more opportunity for contact between members of an immediate or extended family has to be seen as advantageous. Moreover, the internet allows a sense of inclusion that goes beyond the family sphere.
It is experiences such as this and others I have described in this essay that have made me a passionate advocate for chickens. I do not seek to sentimentalize chickens but to characterize them as best I can within the purview of my own observations and relationships with them. In the 1980s I wrote an who, more than any other single cause, led me to found United Poultry Concerns in 1990. It is hard for me to evoke in words how expressive she was in spite of her handicap and despite the miserable life she had had before I lifted her out of her misery and brought her home with me.