“I think my hen, Whitey, is dying. She’s not moving, and won’t let me pick her up. She also won’t go back into the coop with the others. It’s been over one week, and she looks like she’s in pain. Can you maybe send her healing energy to help her feel comfortable and secure? She’s my favorite hen!”
I happen to be quite fond of these sweet, intelligent, and benevolent creatures, and I was eager to talk to my first chicken. I started with a body scan, and felt a heaviness in Whitey’s lower abdomen. In my own body this would be the area of the ovaries. Did Whitey have an egg inside her that she couldn't push forward?
I asked Whitey if she was trying to lay an egg, and heard, “I already laid them.” Whitey told me she wasn't going to die. I had also felt a pain in Whitey’s left foot and thought maybe she had hurt herself. I felt an energetic blockage in her 4th and 2nd energy centers; the heart center and the sexual, or creative, center.
Whitey was depressed. She wanted to have chicks. Louise enticed Whitey with her favorite delights, but maternal yearnings left Whitey motionless and cranky. I didn’t know how to console Whitey, so I sent her healing energy, as Louise had asked, and flooded the hen’s frail body with light and love, and whatever else the universe had in mind.
That next morning Louise said Whitey hopped out of the nest and became her old self; foraging for bugs and seeds! The smallest of the three hens, she assumed her normal position as the boss again. It was wonderful to hear that Whitey turned around so quickly. Louise and I were both delighted to have learned something about hens. She had done some googling, and learned that Whitey may have gone “broody.” A brooding chicken, we learned, wants to have chicks. They will sit on their nesting box and won’t move for about twenty one days, sometimes longer, as long as it would take to hatch a fertile egg. I learned that most of a hen’s lifetime is preparing for reproduction and caring for her offspring. A hen’s reproduction cycle is two or three times a year, where they might lay 20-30 eggs within that year. In a natural environment a brooding hen will stop laying eggs, as Whitey had, until the eggs she has laid have hatched.
I couldn't help thinking of the billions of female birds in the factory farms whose basic needs and instincts are disregarded. Factory farmed hens never get to rest into their natural body rhythms. They’re routinely denied food for two-three weeks at a time, which thrusts their body into the egg laying cycle, and forces them to lay more than 275 eggs a year.
Chickens, cows and pigs are social creatures who enjoy each other’s company, foraging for food, taking dust baths, and lying in the sun. In the factory farm, five to ten full grown birds are crammed into steel cages with as much floor space as a letter-size piece of paper. “Cage Free” egg production is often pretty much the same where warehouses can hold as many as 10,000 birds, leaving no room for the chickens to spread their wings, or venture outdoors.
The first fundamental precept of Buddhism is abstaining from the destruction of life, and to not cause suffering for others. The second precept is abstaining from taking that which is not freely offered.
Cows and sows are sexually abused and kept pregnant until slaughter. Hooked up to machines for life, cows do not freely offer their milk to us. Never allowed to nurse, calves are
torn from their mothers at birth, so that every drop of milk gets delivered to us. Sows spend a lifetime in a gestation crate so small they cannot stand up or even turn their heads to see their piglets nursing through the bars. But they will see them be slaughtered.
All creatures cherish their lives, and their offspring, just as Whitey cherishes hers, just as your companion animals cherish theirs, and just as we cherish ours.
All beings share an equal right to a decent life regardless of whether we believe they are capable of feeling pain or compassion, whether we believe they have thoughts or emotions, or whether their life span is five months. We can’t enslave others, oppress others, or make others unhappy and expect to be at peace. What we do to others, we do
Not eating meat or dairy creates the least amount of harm, not just for the animals, but for our health, and our environment. The meat and dairy industries are the largest contributors to global warming, contributing 50% of greenhouse gasses. An estimated 14,000 acres of rainforest are cut down every day to grow grains for factory farmed animals. Producing one pound of beef takes 1,581 gallons of water, roughly as much water one person would use to take one-hundred showers. Corporate greed and our appetites for meat are destroying the earth, and our health.
When I feel outraged, overwhelmed and powerless, I often recite this compassion-meditation prayer which helps keep me on track :
“May I learn to care about suffering and confusion.”
“May I respond with mercy and empathy to pain.”
“May I be filled with compassion”
“May I be humble to all of creation, so that I may always remind myself why I am here.”
Photo of Whitey: Lucy Snowe www.LucySnowephotography.com