Monday, December 29, 2008


In the winter, the hens don't lay eggs every day. In fact, after their Fall moult which was a few months ago, they have not really laid at all. But just as the winter solstice passed, Meg started laying again. She hasn't been having an egg every day but so far we have 4. Gertie isn't laying again yet, as far as I can tell.

One of the questions we a lot, now that we are vegan/vegetarian, is what do we do with the eggs from our girls.

Well... the simple answer is, we eat them.

Or, mainly the hubby does. I don't eat eggs a lot ever anyways. I mainly used them in my baking. But since I made the switch to a fully vegan diet right around the time they paused in their laying, I've been looking at substitutions for when I'm baking. So it hasn't been a big deal.

There are many reasons why people choose to become vegetarian or vegan. One of my main reasons is to avoid participating and supporting an industry that subjects animals to cruelty and torture. I don't need eggs (or meat or dairy) and I don't want it enough to make the animals pay that kind of a price. I just can't justify it any longer and I can't continue with it now that I'm aware of it.

As I mentioned before, our 3 chickens were rescued. We keep them because we like them and we like taking care of them. We aren't going to eat them and we didn't get them for the eggs. We aren't going to kill them or get rid of them when they stop laying - which could be tomorrow or years from now. The girls are going to lay eggs as a part of their natural cycle. We are not raising them for breeding chicks either. So, because we know where the eggs came from, how the hens are treated and what their future is, we feel comfortable eating the eggs. Outside of know that about any food, I try not to risk it.

Of course, we are lucky in that we are able to do this. If we were living in Florida still, or even another location here, this would be difficult to impossible. If that were the case, I do not forsee us eating eggs at all.

But we don't.

We live here. We have the girls (and Napoleon, of course). We do our best to take care of them and to avoid causing harm.

We also eat the eggs.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Line Between What We Believe And How We Behave

I thought this was a very interesting article and one that I find personally intriguing, so I'm reposting it here. I'd love to know your thoughts too.

The Line Between What We Believe And How We Behave by By Eccentric Vegan on December 18th, 2008 via Vegan Soapbox

“People are complicated, irrational creatures when it comes to how they view animals. [...] I’ve come to the conclusion that all people are basically good, and that goodness rebels against cruelty to animals. Therefore, people convince themselves that anything they do is not cruel to animals. I don’t think they even really completely buy their rationales, but they cling to them anyway. Believing something false to clear your conscious is easier than changing your lifestyle to do so.” —Mindy Quittem (source)

Boy, you can say that again.

I’m intrigued by human behavior. In fact, I think I should have studied sociology or marketing in college rather than philosophy. Logic and critical thinking are great. I’m so glad I developed some critical thinking skills. But how good are they when most of the people around me are more motivated by “50% off” or “everyone else does it, you should too” than by logic? How helpful is it to be able to analyze complex ideas like “obscurantism” when the entire notion is obscure to most people?

Mindy Quittem’s comment above illustrates the divide between what we know and what we do. We all know animal cruelty is wrong. We all know killing animals needlessly is wrong. We all know veganism is right. But there’s a gap between what we know and what we do. There is a line between what we believe and how we behave.

Gallup polls have shown:

“A quarter of Americans say animals deserve the same rights as humans, while almost all of the rest agree that animals should be given some protection from harm and exploitation.”
The majority of Americans believe one thing, yet behave in a manner contradictory to what they believe.

There are plenty of valid reasons for this: lack of choices, lack of education, social pressure to conform. Most of us vegans have experienced at least a little delay in our own transition. Personally, I believed veganism was right for over a decade before I made the switch. I was just so comfortable eating milk and eggs. It was so easy not to think about where they came from or who got hurt in the process.

It wasn’t cognitive dissonance. I didn’t lie to myself. I just chose not to think about it. In fact, when asked why I wasn’t vegan I responded:

We all draw our lines somewhere. For me, that line is currently between flesh and other products. For most meat-eaters, their line is between pets and farm animals. Or, their line is between horses and cows, or humans and animals.

I draw my line as a practical matter. For me it’s extremely easy to abstain from animal flesh.[...] But it’s harder to give up eggs and milk.

I won’t argue that I shouldn’t give up milk and eggs. I certainly agree. I just haven’t done it yet. I suppose I’m a little like a smoker who talks about quitting but never does. They *know* what’s right, they just don’t act on it yet.

It’s hypocritical for a doctor, who cares about health, to tell someone else not to smoke and then to light up themselves. It doesn’t mean the doctor is wrong to tell someone to quit smoking. It just means they are addicted.

I believe much of what we do is defined by habit and not by actual conscious choice. [...] most people don’t have a rational reason behind the majority of their daily habits. They often just act without thought.

So how do we change this?I think we change it by making veganism more socially acceptable. We do vegan education and vegan outreach.

Here are some options for you to get active:

- Vegan mentoring
- Join or start a vegan meetup
- Do vegan leafletting at college campuses
- Start a vegan blog
- Virtual leafletting
- Make a vegan video

As Dhrumil said via Twitter:

"I don't know what to do" is often a sign that you do know what to do, but that you might be afraid of the consequences of taking action. "

Let's all take action... even if it's a small one. Everything counts and so do your actions.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

One Trick... Chicken?

This is my rooster. He is smart.

Not only does my rooster love me and like to jump up onto my hand and (usually) come when he is called but is now on his way to being an entertainer.

Okay, he already entertains me for hours, as do the girls, but now we have fun playing together too. We already play a sort of "tag" where I run around the yard and he runs after me but now I've taught him to jump from one hand to the other.

I'll have to get a video of this but he jumps up on my hand and then I hold up my other arm/hand a fair distance apart and he half-flies/half-jumps to it. We'll do this several times in a row or until one of us gets bored or tired.

You may not know this, but chickens are inquisitive, interesting animals who are as intelligent as mammals like cats, dogs, and even primates. Dr. Chris Evans, administrator of the animal behavior lab at Australia’s Macquarie University, says, “As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list [chickens’] attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys.”

My goal is to teach him to remain calm enough that we can bring him other places so that more people can get to meet and actual live chicken and learn more about these sweet animals outside of a dinner plate.

Friday, December 5, 2008

City Living with a Farm Feel

Just found a cute article in the LA Times about "urban chickens." Thought I would share it with you:

Erik Knutzen and Kelly Coyne started keeping chickens in their Echo Park backyard a little more than a year ago. The two are co-authors of "The Urban Homestead," a handbook for city dwellers who want to live off the land as much as possible, and the couple were interested in taking their urban farming experiments a step beyond harvesting artichokes, blueberries and zucchinis. So last summer they purchased four chicks, and now they are obsessed."I used to think it would be so great to bring the laptop outside and just watch the chickens and work," Knutzen said. "But I can't get anything done when I'm out here because I can't take my eyes off the chickens. They are hypnotic."

Any urban dweller interested in living green has good reason to keep chickens. They reduce garbage by eating your leftovers mixed in with their feed, and they will pick off those irritating caterpillars destroying the vegetable garden. Their poop is an excellent composting aid, and they will even trim your grass and weed for you, if you let them. Added benefits: farm-fresh eggs right from the backyard and the amusement of impressing friends with an interesting new pet -- and for many it is a pet, not a future entree.

"Bottom line, chickens are a lot of fun," said Dave Belanger, publisher of Backyard Poultry magazine, who has seen subscriptions more than triple since he launched in 2006.

Because neither Knutzen nor Coyne had kept chickens before, their venture began with lots of research on message boards and websites. They learned it's best not to name the chickens and get emotionally attached (they did anyway), and that chickens are social animals, so it's better to have more than one (they have four). Then there was the whole question of constructing a coop to ensure maximum chicken comfort and safety.

"I was talking to a friend of mine who used to be an architect who keeps a lot of chickens, and we think that architecture students should have to design chicken coops," Knutzen said. "It's the perfect way to practice how to meet a client's specific needs."

An infinite number of chicken coop plans are available in books and online, but most share the same concept of four zones: a run for the chickens to scratch and peck in the dirt, a place to eat and drink, a covered and secure roost in which to sleep at night, and, of course, the nesting box to lay their eggs.

In Mount Washington, furniture designer and artist Dakota Witzenburg built a chicken coop for his wife, Audrey Diehl, for Christmas last year as part of their ongoing effort to live green. When designing his coop, his priorities were keeping it easy to clean and making sure his chickens were safe by sinking corrugated metal at least 6 inches below ground so that burrowing predators couldn't get in. But he also considered aesthetics.

His innovations included a green roof planted with succulents, and he's considering a pulley system to make raising the roof easier. He chose yellow cedar and redwood planks not just for their sturdiness, but for the patina. "I didn't want it to be something I had to maintain," he said. "This will gray out nicely."

Diehl has been keeping an elaborate blog on her chickens' development and socialization at greenfrieda.blogspot.com.

"I'm kind of obsessed with them," she said. "Chicken people always talk about how chickens are better than TV. You could watch them all day and never get tired of it."

Oriana Bielawsky had her boyfriend, carpenter and doghouse designer Billy Peshel, build a midcentury modern coop to match their midcentury modern house (and their midcentury modern doghouse) in Laurel Canyon in fall 2004. Bielawsky didn't even want a chicken, but Peshel found one wandering on Mulholland Drive one night as he was driving home, and nobody responded to their "Chicken Lost" signs, so they decided to keep her.

Even though Cecilia passed away this summer, her coop still stands, an olive green structure built on stilts to blend with the slope of the backyard. Bielawsky, who works in film production and considers herself more of an animal lover than a backyard farmer, said Cecilia became part of an extended family that included dogs, doves and cats. Plus, there were the eggs.

"Everyone loved them," Bielawsky said, "and they were the most gorgeous sunset orange color."

Netburn is a Times staff writer.