A Rant: Raising Chickens is Good (or, on the Stupidity of Industrial Agriculture)

I wrote this poem last year, but given my recent posts on why and how we raise and eat our chooks, as well as other sustainable homely practices, I thought I’d share it here. Warning – this is not intended to be scholarly – it’s an ’emoticons off’ rant.

A rant, or
F*&king stupid people f*&king up our world not an ounce of sense or personal responsibility wanting to own dogs & cats but not allow productive small animals like chickens stupid pointless people need to f*&k off now turning me into a bloody misanthrope when I really want to like people (that is not the poem).
16 July 2009

It started with 3 chickens
3 clucking
bug & weed-eating
fertilising chickens
in one suburban

They cost her 7 dollars apiece
and gave her
2169 eggs
in their pleasant quarter-acre lives
worth a conservative 1100 dollars
leaving her 1079 dollars to spend
on organic fruit
she wasn’t already growing in her own

The chickens
meant she needed no
no herbicides
& needn’t pay for any
fertilisers for the food she was growing
in her own

She called the chickens
John, Deere, and Tractor.

Over the fence lived
a couple with a dog
a bright green lawn
a 4 wheel drive
a sedan
roses and no food growing
in their

The husband worked
for agri-business
who’d been stung
when their bagged spinach product
killed four
left 35 with
acute kidney failure
due to e coli contamination
in their Salinas Valley
industrial scale
vegetable fields.

So clutching his values
his greed and his fear
he sat in his boardroom
and agreed
that a scorched earth strategy
was the only way
to ensure that he
and all his successors
could live in good conscience
that they would never again
be held liable
for what was contracted
from once-living products
now wrapped in sterile plastic
in somebody’s

And so
if a squirrel ran along the edge of a field
everything within 10 metres
had to be
the pest-deterring
planted by the organic grower
in the next

And then he went home
and he heard a strange sound
not really unpleasant
but definitely
belonging to
something un-hygienic
in somebody else’s

He peered over the fence
and stared in shock/rage
at John, Deer and Tractor.
3 clucking chickens
alive, eating and shitting
in the neighbour’s

It didn’t take long
to garner the cries
of the neighbourhood association
who contacted the council
who knocked on the door
of the woman with chickens
in her

This will not do
they said
you must be rid of these animals
who have no place in the suburbs
if you want to have livestock
move to a

Your chickens
they said
are unsanitary
and a temptation to
the dogs
in others’

And by the way
you must stop dumping your food waste
in that bin up the back
it attracts rats
and foxes and possums
in droves
and your grey water system
well it just won’t do
it contaminates all of those vegies
you grow
here in this outrageously

You must buy food that
we know is safe
you can get it at Coles
where it has been sprayed with
47 chemicals to ensure its
and bagged in clear plastic
so you can see it is safe
though you must wash it at home
just to be sure
it hasn’t been tainted somewhere
along the industrial line
by some unhygienic worker
who probably looks and acts
a lot like you and your

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Tammi Jonas

The infrequent and imperfect yet impassioned musings of a farmer, meatsmith, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community.

8 thoughts on “A Rant: Raising Chickens is Good (or, on the Stupidity of Industrial Agriculture)”

  1. So, it appears that we have the same neighbour! Although mine doesn't have a yard of roses-he DOES have a swimming pool with a broken fence in a neighbourhood full of toddlers. And a problem with my chickens who "will attract flies!!"
    Next time he leaves me a stack of council guidelines on the keeping of chooks in our area, helpfully highlighted and annotated with the problems I am causing, I shall give him a copy of this excellent poem.
    Although I can't promise it will be placed in his letterbox and not tied to a brick thrown through the window.

  2. Geez.

    Just shows you how un-natural some people's way of thinking is.

    At this rate, everyone will eventually be forced to live in ultra-sterilised plastic wrapping and the animals will just be digital images.

  3. I'm lucky, when my chooks get out all my neighbours (average age 75) get out and help round them up.

    But they all grew up with chooks in the back yard, and they adore me for reminding them of that tradition.

    Little Red Hen, take those council guidelines, highlight the bits you are doing right, and forget about it. Council rangers have more than enough to do.

  4. Nice poem Tammi. Time to ratchet things up a bit with your shrink-wrapped, mall shoppin', Triple M listenin', Territory driv'n, KFC eatin' neighbors from Planet Middlebrow.

    1. Dont stop at chooks, get a few Roosters for a start!

    2. Then get some pigs, that'll really stir things up

    3. Have a communal slaughter & smallgoods festa one weekend with mates then, now here's the clincher, Tan the pigs skins, but do it on a still day & let the fumes fester.

    Then & maybe then, they can complain. Wankers.

  5. Ha! It's funny how everyone thinks this rant is autobiographical (fair enough, I suppose, given so much of my stuff is…). It was actually inspired by reading an article in the US about a council in Oregon where people are not allowed to have chickens in their backyards, though they can have dogs. I then read another article about the 'scorched earth' policy after the spinach e coli contamination a couple years ago in Salinas Valley. The stupidity of such policy and regulation led to the rant.

    For the record, my own neighbours are great – they have chickens (and dogs, most of them), thriving gardens, composts, etc. Now if you asked me about my neighbours when we were still in the leafy southeastern suburbs, I would have a different story to tell. That's why we escaped those posh suburbs – values clash.

  6. I am wanting to buy some hens for eggs. Don’t know anything about raising chickens, all this is new to me, does anyone have any good starter pointers for me as to what kind of hens to start out with for eggs, I live in Kentucky and would like to have eggs this winter

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