The Moral Question of Real Free-Range Chickens

We have chickens. We love them and love spending time outside with them. They walk around free on the farm all day, managing their socialising, food and drink choices. They come into our house sometimes, and go back into their house at night when they are done for the day. They feel like real members of our family that we call our Zoo Crew. But sometimes we lose some. . .

This past month we lost one of our favourite roosters to an eagle. He was calling letting us know something was wrong and by the time we got on our shoes to go outside he was gone. A single eagle feather was left on the ground where he was taken.

A week later we saw the eagles flying overhead, majestically, and for the chickens, ominously. As many we talked to said, our rooster was food for a new generation of eagles. It is the only consolation and of course, that is nature that none of us are separate from.

At the same time we are losing some, we have 2 chickens raising 7 babies. My husband, Birger, says it is a numbers game; we just have to stay ahead of the eagles. If it were foxes we would have a right, during the proper season, to defend our animals. With eagles, our farm is the free snack bar. No law allows us to defend our animals from them. We accept this. But the question becomes, free range or not to free range?

Each time we have lost one of our birds, we go through many hours of questioning if we are doing the right thing having the birds as real free-range chickens. I don’t want them to be caged in any fashion though we have a chicken house. We close their house at night so they are safe while they sleep, but in the morning they are free again. Some we know say it is cruel leaving them to their fates. Some we talk to say, that’s how it is being a farmer.

I want the beings in association with us to feel as free as possible, with some considerations. I feel like it makes for better family harmony, and it definitely makes for better food. Our sheep have a decent size area of pasture and forest they are free to wander at their will. They seem very content. Our cats have the run of the farm and neighbour property. They always come home happy. And finally our dogs have a farm to experience, protect and enjoy with us. I would want to be an animal on my farm.

So I think that is the answer: do you do unto others as you would have done unto you? Everyone has an opinion, including the eagles, and they think our animals are tasty.

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