What’s in a Name?
If you are researching chicken keeping, you might come across discussions on naming birds. The idea being that if you don’t name your chickens you become less attached to them and they are easier to cull for meat when the time comes.
When you get your first flock you are going to need to make this decision, do you name your chickens or not?
When we got our first clutch of chicks, we intended for them to be meat birds as well as layers. We tried not to name them but ran into a problem, whenever a chick did something cute or funny that we wanted to share we had no way of referring to them.
First Dubbed Hen (sort of)
The first chick to be named was Twenty three. We had brought 23 chicks home, and before we closed them up for their first night in their new home, we had to show them where the water was by dipping their beak into it. Ted took each chick out and dipped their beak, but there was one chick that was frantically trying to avoid Ted when he tried to catch her. This chick was the last one to be picked up and dipped. She had a big black spot on her head, so she was easy to find amongst the others. As she was the last of the 23 chicks to be picked up, she became Twenty three. (The first chicken story, on the first day, required the first name to be dubbed. So that didn’t last long!)
Twenty-three turned out to be one of five white Leghorn chickens. The rest were brown and Buff Cochins. For the white chickens, we worked down from 23, giving each a number. We thought we were clever by using numbers as if we could have our eggs and eat it too, but it didn’t work.
Through our first flock, we learned that chickens are smart (we believe that like parrots, chickens have the intelligence of a young child), they have different personalities and are just as capable of receiving and giving love as any other being.
One of the white hens that became our first house chook was called Twenty. Twenty had opened our hearts, and she was incredibly smart. Twenty was able to learn new things after being shown just once. Twenty learned where she was allowed to lay eggs and sleep in our home, where she should wait outside to get our attention for entry into the house, and that the kitchen is an excellent place to hang out for special treats the other chickens wouldn’t have access to. Twenty also became a companion animal who choose to spend time with us when she had plenty of roaming space available. This realisation is when the “numbers game” stopped.
After that, we started using pet names for our chickens, and the practice soon caught on. There was: Brownie, and Blondie, Blondie (2), and Debbie, and Mr, and Silk, and Dylan, and Smoke, and Blue, and Paula, and Paul, and Rainbow Mr, and Chooper Dooper, Little Mr, Bucket Mr, White Silk, Black Silk, Lucy, Demon Eye, WTF Chirpie, Original Momma Chirpie, Momma Chirpie, Sussex Chirpie, Alarm Chirpie, Frodo, Sam, Little Miss, Hazel, Nutmeg, House Mr, Little Little Miss and so on…
Whether you name your birds or not, in all likelihood it will not completely mitigate the difficulty of taking their life (especially for the first time). If you have a lot of birds, numbering in hundreds, thousands, and above, then it becomes a bit easier as it is impossible to name them all and get to know them in the same way as a backyard chicken keeper with smaller flocks.
What it comes down to is having compassion for your birds. To treat them well, whether you cull them or not, no matter how long their lives are. Taking a life is not supposed to be easy. Closing your heart to the infinite love and joy that chickens have to offer is a high price to pay for your meat. Chickens also give us an opportunity to think deeply about life and death and to respect both. Given how often death has become taboo in everyday life, that is a lesson worth learning. Every time we have taken the life of a chicken here at Hermit House, we have apologised, thanked them for their sacrifice, and petted them until they passed. They still hold a dear place in our hearts to this day.
Giving a bird a good home takes work, but by doing so, you know that no matter how long you have together you gave them a life worth living, compared to a typical poultry farm where it is impossible to provide them with the individual care they need. As more of us are willing to take on the role of backyard chicken keeper and deal with the difficulties and joys it brings, the higher we can raise the quality of life for the average chicken in this world, whether they are named or not. To keep chickens, or not to keep chickens, that is a far more important decision in the end run.
That is our take on the subject, what are your thoughts on naming chickens? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this article then why not send our chickens a treat by donating to our homestead! We thank you, our chickens thank you!
For more information, see http://hermit.house.