Ava had a rough start in life. She was born in a hatchery without a mother's wing to keep her warm. The day she was born, she and 499 other baby birds were plopped into US Postal Service boxes. They were shipped as "perishable matter" until a postal worker noticed that 50 were dead. Through a series of lucky breaks, the remaining chicks were placed into loving homes - ten came to Animal Place as adorable, large, cheeping babies. Ava is the kind of bird people eat; she is bred to grow so fast that she is at market weight at the young age of six weeks. Six weeks! Just a baby. Every year, 9.2 billion of her kind are slaughtered. It's a tragic end to a life worth so much more.
To be honest, that isn't really the story I wanted to share but it's important to know where Ava comes from and why she even exists. Ava is more than her birthplace, she is definitely more than "dinner". She is curious and smart and a little on the goofy side. A couple of weeks ago, she showed me a trust that I definitely deserved (okay, I know I should be modest...) but was nevertheless pleased she shared.
I was outside doing final preparations for an upcoming event and I wanted to check out the poultry enclosure. Ava and her buddies were pecking around in the grass, as they are wont to do, when a couple of turkey vultures glided overhead. Chickens have to be particularly aware of their surroundings, including who's flying in the sky. And even though Ava has been bred for a size and weight never seen in nature, she and her kind still know to be concerned about winged predators. So even though the turkey vultures held no interest in the chickens, nine of Ava's sisters ran underneath a protective overhang. Except Ava.
Ava immediately ran over to me and stood next to my leg. She gazed up at me, pitched a nasty glare to the turkey vultures ("Yeah? My human here's way bigger than you!) and started to scratch about in the dirt. I crouched down next to her, reached my hand out, and gently preened her neck feathers for her. She leaned into my palm and sighed. I shook my fists at the turkey vultures, you know, just to show Ava I meant business and was worthy of protecting her. I guess Ava was pleased, for she preened and clucked and went on her way.
It's hard to think of Ava as a "thing" or an "it" or "meat". She's Ava. Lover of wheelbarrow rides, singer of very interesting chicken songs, and hardcore grape addict. It's pretty neat to think she likes me alright too, even though I can't sing, sometimes steal her grapes and feel wheelbarrows were meant for poop and straw, not perching chickens. She forgives all that - she knows I'll kick turkey-vulture butt any time, anywhere for her.
-Marji Beach, Education Coordinator