Guest Post: The Queer Thing About Chickens

I recently had the pleasure of learning about a fantastic local farm called 2 Brown Chicks Family Farm.   Owners Joanne Alcantara & Boo Torres both have a long history of activism & community building–and the farm is no exception.  There is a lot to love about what they are doing.  The part I’m seriously digging is how is how they use urban farming as a way to expand their passionate commitment to community building and social justice. Talk about living your values!   You can (& should!) read more about them on their website and also here!

The queer thing about chickens

by Joanne Alcantara, co-owner of 2 Brown Chicks Family Farm

My partner and I recently started raising Rhode Island Reds in Skyway on our small urban farm. As chicks, they acted much like new born babies—sleeping, eating, pooping, drinking, playing and making noises throughout the night. New to raising chicks, we treated the first set very tenderly, watching them curiously and handling them gently during any spare hour of the day.

As they got older, they got more active, flying out of their box when it was time to clean their litter or fill up their food. They played and chewed on any garden morsel we gave them; grass clippings, dandelions and dirt were among their favorites. They ran and stretched their growing wings from one end of their box to the other.

When the chicks started to feather out, losing their original fuzz, they grew more weather tolerant and were able to run outside. We moved them outside with plenty of bedding on the floor and a nearby heat lamp to keep them warm. Day by day they grew more adventurous of their surroundings and spent more time outside. At first, we only let them out when we were home. However, as they got a little tougher, we let them run unsupervised around our small farm.

It wasn’t until our first set of chickens started to lay eggs that we were sure they were hens and not a bunch of roosters. For me, this has been the queerest part of raising chickens. With a handful of little chicks, we have no idea what we’re going to get. Part of the fun is watching them grow to become who they intend to be.

Currently we have 10 chickens in their “coming of age.” Some have long and beautiful tail feathers. Some are still very small and brown. Some have rose combs, others have tall upright combs and the rest haven’t come up yet. And yes, much of this can be attributed to breeding, but some of it is just part of life’s daily mysteries and gentle reminders that people (even as animal caretakers) are not in charge of everything.

In the past month, three of our many chickens died while they roamed our little farm. Two, we believe, were eaten by hawks. One was shot in front of our home by someone with a pellet gun. All of the deaths were shocking, but the unnatural shooting of our beloved animal has been the hardest to swallow. The remains of all three birds were buried on the farm with a prayer for new life as they returned to the soil. And while we strengthened the fences and defenses for our chickens, they continue to show us every day that they’re ready to escape and try things again.

The amazing Gloria Anzaldua, queer Chicana poet, once said, “I want the freedom to carve and chisel my own face, to staunch the bleeding with ashes, to fashion my own gods out of my entrails.” Sometimes when I look out at our chickens, watch them peck and play from the kitchen window, I think they’re on to something. As they grow, they show us their true selves. As they explore, they run freely into life’s dangers. And, even in death, they create and make possible another cycle of life.

It’s not such a bad life to be a chicken. They run into the same dilemmas that we do as activists and organizers: live caged and lifeless or freely with the risk of death.

Pretty chicken!

Strutting About

Awesome chicken community!

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5 Responses to Guest Post: The Queer Thing About Chickens

  1. cookie monster says:

    great guest post! i can’t wait to come see your farm and learn all about chickens!!!

  2. ohbriggsy says:

    this post makes me even more excited to get chickens (if that’s possible) and visit two brown chicks!

  3. Airen says:

    What a great post, Joanne. I love hearing about the developments over at 2 Brown Chicks.

  4. Jerri says:

    My husband and I just saw “Food Inc” about two weeks ago and are ready for life change. I love your site, I’ve sent a question about keeping chickens and have explored your most of your sites. My question is we live in King County and are looking for meat that is slaughtered in a more humane and healty way. Any suggestions? Regardless if I can keep chickens or not I plan to visit your farm soon. I really like your comminment, allot of us talk it but your living it. Thanks Jerri

    • Hi Jerri- I am not sure if the comment was for me (grow & resist) or my great guest poster, Joanne of 2 Brown Chicks Farm. However, as far as obtaining meat I get the majority of the meat that we eat via Thundering Hooves, based in eastern washington, that I think is amazing. You should check them out- they have meat buying delivery all over the puget sound. Otherwise, I would go to your local farmer’s market and talk to the farmer (or look at their websites) or go to PCC. My experience with PCC is that they really know a lot about the farms they get their meat from.
      I hope that helps! I’m glad you’ve been inspired and please email me if you have any questions!

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