It is a great week in the media for species that generally need some public relations assistance. On Monday I was delighted to share Nicolas Dodman's discussion, on NPR's Fresh Air, of his pet rats. In today's (Thursday May 17) New York Times, Christine Pittel, in an article headed, "All Cooped Up In a Manhattan Co-op" (pg F6) discusses the joys of raising hens.
We read that a friend named Tiziana gave Pittel and her daughter Isabella two baby chicks to raise. They soon learn about chickens:
"In no time at all, their fuzz was replaced by pinfeathers and Chirp, the more adventurous of the pair, was nonchalantly surveying the scene from the rim of the box.
"Who knew chickens could fly? (You can see how little time I've spent in barnyards.)"
The humans built the chicks a spacious coop with two tiers, decked out with wooden dowels and a branch from Central Park as roosts.
We read about the chicks' personalities:
"We decided that Cheep was a girl, with that bouffant hairdo that made her look twice her size, and Chirp was a boy, because he was the epitome of the gallant male.
"As soon as Isabella came home from school and opened their cage, he would politely stand aside to let Cheep emerge. If she wandered out of his sight, he would squawk and scurry off to find her. Then Cheep would reappear with Chirp at her heels, jump up on Isabella's arm and hold still to be scratched under the chin.
"Chirp would observe these proceedings with a cocked head and a quizzical stare, but when Isabella reached down to give him equal time, he would step back -- too shy, or too proud, to admit he too wanted to be touched -- and make her chase him.
"Whoever coined the phrase 'dumb cluck' never met our chickens. All I had to do was open the refrigerator door and both would come running."
The family had fun learning what to feed the birds, including "chick grit," because chickens, who don't have teeth to grind food, swallow stones that grind food in their stomachs.
When both hens started laying eggs, they realized they had made a mistake calling Chirp a he.
Cheep soon lost all interest in anything except sitting on her nest.
The article ends with:
"Even Isabella understood that it would be unfair to keep the chickens from having their own families. We had to let them go back to the Berkshires. Through tears, my daughter decided that the logical time to do it was when she went to summer camp, because she couldn't bear to witness the departure.
'''But we can visit them all the time, right, Mama? And I'm going to have to approve their husbands.'
"Isabella went off to camp, Joseph left on business, and I was alone with the chickens. I thought I would be eager to get rid of the nuisance and the mess, but I found myself postponing the call to Tiziana. Isabella and I had raised these chickens from bits of fluff. They actually came when she called. I always checked on them at night before I went to bed, just as I checked on Isabella.
"What was I thinking? It was all arranged. I couldn't chicken out now. Time for these two to fly the coop."
You'll find the whole piece on line at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/17/garden/17chickens.html
It includes an adorable photo of Isabella standing with one of the hens on her head, and also a picture of their coop in a co-op.
The warm article about these animals presents a perfect opportunity for letters to the editor that discuss the way most hens are kept. Readers on plant based diets can take this opportunity to explain why they eat neither hens nor eggs, given the shocking conditions in which almost all hens, even cage-free, are raised.
The New York Times takes letters firstname.lastname@example.org
My thanks to Bruce Friedrich for making sure we saw this lovely article.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)
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Date: Thu May 17 21:25:14 2007