Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Why I stopped eating chicken

  • Print

I recently came across a food article that suggested celebrating the change of seasons by dishing up a roasted "spring chicken." Seriously? I would no more eat a spring chicken than I would eat the Easter Bunny. Here’s why.

Back in October 1990, I volunteered to "babysit" for my friends’ animals while they were out of town. These were no friendly dogs in need of a walk. The family companions were chickens — an entire flock of them.

I knew nothing about chickens or birds in general, for that matter. My sole qualification was that I was available to spend a week at this country farm. But how hard could it be to feed a few dozen chickens for a week? My pals assured me that I was in for a pleasant surprise. I was convinced that they just wanted to shift the focus away from the fact that I was working for free. But off they went — and with no cable television or Internet in their house, I headed to the barnyard to kill some time.

What I found there could have been called the "Real Housewives of Farm County." There were loud birds, shy birds, pushy birds, hilarious birds. Within minutes, it was clear that cliques counted and that I was still an outsider to some and a novelty to others. One inquisitive hen walked right up to me and looked me straight in the eye in careful assessment. The grain in my hand must have helped me to pass muster, because she led me across the yard and "introduced" me to her crew.

Most were decidedly unimpressed. One hen, however, whom I dubbed Hailey, took an abiding interest in my socks, which were covered with orange polka dots. She rubbed her beak across them and followed me around the yard. I found it mildly amusing. I was still trying to wrap my head around how unexpectedly complicated and interesting the whole flock was. I spent the day enjoying the sun and reading, watching the chickens gossip and hunt for snacks in the grass, squabble and make up, take dust baths and snuggle under each other’s wings.

That evening, after putting the birds to bed safe inside the barn, I hung my load of laundry out on a clothesline. The next morning, both polka-dotted socks were missing. The door to the barn was shut, and I hadn’t seen any of these birds actually fly. They had been rescued from factory farms or had fallen off transport trucks, so their bodies were unnaturally heavy, and many had crippled feet from spending their early lives in wire battery cages. Some struggled to get around. Yet the socks were nowhere to be seen. Where were my socks?

It took me most of the morning to find them. It still seems unreal to me, but Hailey had somehow absconded with the pair, laid an egg and carefully wrapped the socks around it. I stood there with my mouth agape while she watched me with a very real look of pleading in her eyes. She wanted those socks and was imploring me to walk away. So I did.

I stopped eating chicken that week and, not long afterward, eggs as well. I could no longer dissociate the wings, legs and breasts that used to be on my plate from Hailey and the other hens. Soon, I switched to eating completely vegan.

Chickens — like other animals — are far more complex than we tend to imagine, with social lives as involved and active as our own. Mother Nature gives us plenty to celebrate each spring — there’s no need for us to condemn these gentle beings to death.


Jennifer O’Connor is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.


—McClatchy Tribune Services

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Winnipeg Cheapskate: Flyer app can save you money

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.
  • Geese take cover in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park near Route 90 Wednesday- Day 28– June 27, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Has your opinion of Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec changed given his latest winning streak?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google