The Bloody Truth About Raising City Chickens
Urban farming has become an urban farming movement. The New York Times ran a piece about the expanding world of urban farming, which is taking root in abandoned lots, backyards, deserted factories, and schoolyards from Detroit to West Oakland. The article focused on growing vegetables, such as young spinach and tomatoes.
But many of these hip, young, smart revolutionary farmers tend not only basil and marigolds, but also our feathery friends. Slate contributor L.E. Leone shares her experiences with urban chicken farming and points to a pathological avoidance of talking about blood, even on sites like thecitychicken.com. Workshops and classes on chicken farming often omit instruction and discussion about the grand finale: the slaughter.
The modern, expected reaction is to be deeply grossed out by all the blood, guts, and death. It doesn't quite fit with the super-enlightened, super-green aesthetic to take unabashed delight, as Leone does, in butchery. Not that it's easy, she says, to "kill what I love." Nonetheless, the slaughter is "the most satisfying part." She explains:
I'll own it: There's a part of me that likes to kill. When I do what I do with a hatchet and a chicken, I feel like crap, and I feel like God. I feel alive and in love and closer than ever to death. So I guess that is, for me, mixed feelings, yes. And the mix itself is welcome and intensely gratifying. In fact, it's almost too much. Too swirly, too soupy. I can tell you that the part of this swirl which seems "good," as opposed to "evil," has absolutely nothing to do with foiling the chicken industry or saving the environment or taking personal responsibility for my role in the food chain. It has to do with getting a little bit bloody and gross, like the complicated, hungry animal that I am.
It's almost enough to make me want to slaughter a chicken. Almost.