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Chicken-raising chic not so cool for old hens

By Celia Rivenbark

I don’t like to brag (unless I’m awake) but I have gathered a few eggs in my day. From an actual hen house, that is, not just reaching into the cooler at Whole Lotta Foods, where the chickens are “cage free,” “vegetarian fed,” “antibiotic-free” and “laughably overpriced.”

Gathering eggs back in the day wasn’t fun, but it’s one of the things you do when you grow up rural, along with mildly inappropriate stuff with your cousin in the back of a school bus. Kidding! I meant movie theater.

Given my childhood egg-gathering experience, and remembering the painful pecking that came with the job, it amuses me today to see how “chicken chic” everyone is now. My friends have multi-leveled triplex coops for their backyard egg-layers that are nicer (and smell better) than my first apartment. There are misters to keep them cool, exercise/workout areas and even a closed-off area where the chickens can go for alone time. Coop dreams.

Chicken coops are so trendy there are annual tours of the best designed ones in many cities across the country. The message is clear. Thanks to the efforts of the earnest, ugly-sandal wearing crowd, raising chickens is cool.

Unfortunately, chickens aren’t fertile forever so, according to the Associated Press, animal shelters are seeing a scary influx of old hens being unceremoniously dumped after chicken menopause.

As a woman of a certain age, my heart breaks just a little for these old hens who were so popular back when their eggs were fresh and plentiful, their bronzed bodies completely capable of bouncing back from a night of disco and tequila shots without so much as an Advil.

But as the years go by, the chickens find themselves eggless and starting to puff out a bit around the mid-section, their tempers are shorter, and they spent a lot of time wondering if Premarin will do even half of the things it claims.

Animal shelters don’t know what to do with all these old hens, tossed aside in favor of younger chicks who have great memories, no chest wrinkles and would probably look amazing in Lululemon yoga pants. No, the old hen’s yoga pants just make her butt look like it contains two tomcats fighting inside a burlap sack when she walks.

So, yes, I feel for the abandoned hens. After a decade of just giving and giving and giving, they are dumped at Animal Control or, as one unsentimental urban chicken rancher told the Associated Press, “We put the older girls in the freezer and we get a newer batch.”

Is it cold in here or is it just me?

She’s keeping it real, I guess. If you raise chickens for eggs, it’s phony to dump them at a shelter and act like you’re humane. Like it’s an assisted living facility with weekly museum outings and Bunco.

(“Really, Henrietta, it’s such a nice place. Look! Corn!”) What else? Oh, yes, listen here: “Buh GAAACK!!!”

rivenbark.com

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