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How The Hen House Turns: Some Thoughts On The Anthropocene

on October 23, 2017 - 4:52am
DeeDee and Scooter. Courtesy photo
How the Hen House Turns
Have we arrived in the new Anthropocene Age for Mother Earth? Have we humans left an indelible mark on our planet, one that has changed the planet for all time?
I think of the huge rafts of plastic waste on Earth’s oceans, the threat to giraffes and so many other beings close to extinction. Then I read about New Mexico’s former Gov. Bill Richardson and his work with The Humane society to “…end all experiments on chimps … to outlaw cockfighting, and to end all horse slaughter in North America.”
Richardson worked with the Thaw family and animal Protection of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation, according to an article in All Animals Sept/Oct 2017.
For many years animal and rescue shelters all over the country have saved the lives of many animals. At the same time, we are too removed from the source of the domestic animals we consume. We can’t seem to find a way to stop all the inhumane practices of our huge chicken and cattle industries. Perhaps that’s a good reason to have family pets.
When we adopted chickens from the feed store in Espanola, we named them. The residents of the Hen House (our mini-farm in Los Alamos) became our friends, part of our family. We knew them as individuals, named them, and learned their preferences for food and nesting comfort. Over the years, I became aware that they were more vocal than I could imagine—responding with quiet greetings when we passed each other in the yard.
We couldn’t imagine turning them into meat.
We did kill a few roosters that had bloodied each other fighting, but the carnage brought tears to our eyes. We also wept when a visiting peacock flew into the yard, perched at night too high in a Ponderosa tree to reach, and disappeared into the larder of a clever raccoon.
Because we knew them as individuals, we treasured their lives, and we came to respect other kinds of life whenever we encountered them. Our dogs were siblings, delighted when they discovered each other at the shelter after being separated for a week (probably abandoned) as puppies. But their personalities were very different, as were the personalities of Turkey One and Two.
DeeDee dog was more self-confident and much quicker at learning simple commands than her sister Scooter. She understood the birds’ concern when Turkey Two died. Scooter didn’t seem to notice. She couldn’t understand when DeeDee died, totally ignoring her lifeless body and looking all over for her for weeks afterward.
Turkey One was imprinted on husband Don because he taught her to hunt grasshoppers as a chick. Whenever we came out of the house, she would come running to us, barking excitedly. Turkey Two was never so exuberant. She loved me only when I had a handful of cracked corn to offer, and she made it quite obvious with a huge display of feathers when I had stayed in the Hen House pen too long. She did like men, however. She sat beside them (it didn’t matter who) when they were working in the yard.
I came to see that every living being is unique. The more biochemists try to reproduce life from scratch and fail, the more marvelous and incredible it seems. Life probably evolved on Earth only once, the theorists now say, and it took a long time with just the right conditions. Every life is precious.