(Note: All opinions expressed within this post pertain only to my own ideas about animal husbandry, I do not judge anyone else's choices, save for actual cruelty to one's fellow creatures.)
Last night a mink got into our chicken coop and killed all of our three chickens. We had two Black Stars, Harriet Tubman, and a late addition to replace Chachakin last fall, Potpot, named so because she actually knew how to make that chicken noise, unlike the other two. My favorite chicken was a Red Star named Pippi. She was a pretty dumb chicken.
I don't believe in anthropomorphizing animals, but when you live with any animal, you realise that they are different individuals and have distinct personalities. Harriet was aptly named due to her fearless nature and her yen for freedom. She was quite the escape artist. Pippi was good natured and liked to eat. She got lost from the pack easily. Potpot was smarter than the other two and very dignified and distrusting of humans.
I've always thought of animals as a "people" as well, not because I attribute them with human characteristics, but as fellow creatures with independent souls and niches in this world. People who claim that animals don't have equivalents of our souls, are in my humble opinion, less like people themselves.
A lot of people also seem to unconsciously (or perhaps even consciously) to have the opinion that their animal, is more of a person than some other animal. They would do anything for their cat or dog's well-being, but don't think twice about the suffering of production animals in factory farms, to the point where most pet owners feed their animals meat-products derived from the suffering of other sentient animals.
Furthermore, I believe that "owning" an animal puts you in its debt, in at least two ways: you are responsible for it's well being, for protecting it and taking care of it, something I feel we failed yesterday. Secondly I are responsible of letting it live out its life as much as possible in a way that is true to it's character.
I would not have cat because it would be in it's nature to hunt the beautiful birds that grace our park. Nor would I have a dog that I would have to keep chained for most of its life in spite the fact that it's a long distance running wolf on the inside. Don't get me wrong, I love cats and dogs and fully understand why people have them and love them. I just love the birds in the trees more.
I had my doubts about keeping chickens: Would we be able to provide a life for them equivalent to the contributions they made to us, or would we be holding them in miserable, unnatural serfdom for their short lives? The chicken, much like the domestic dog, cat, cow, pig and to a lesser extent, horse, as evolved alongside humans to the point where it is somewhat impossible to fully understand what is and is not natural to them.
Certainly if no one ordered them from the chick-factories, the breeds of chicken that we have created might slowly die out. Their wild ancestors would continue to scratch their way trough the forests of Sumatra.
I still am not sure what to think of the act of having chickens or any animals for that matter. What I fully believe is that if one is to consume products of animals, it is one's duty to try to get them as close to home as possible, and from a source that treats animals with the respect they deserve, regardless of cost or inconvenience.
I have nothing but respect in fact for our friends who are poultry farmers. They let their chickens lead a normal life, and protect them from predators, something I feel very angry at myself we failed to do.
I always knew they would die, perhaps violently, I just didn't know that it would be my fault. The mink just did what minks do, acted out its part in the great, complicated play of life. We failed to fullfil our second part of the agreement that one enters with animals, in spite our best intentions. The first part, I am confident we did well in.
Our chickens had a good life. They were useful, fun to be around of, brave and curious and they seemed to enjoy their lives.
We buried them in the garden, where they liked to root around and destroy things.