As chickens have become a fixture at Mucky Boots, I have become aware of some aspects of the whole business that make me, a generally socially progressive kind of person, uncomfortable.
Take race, for example. I know chickens are not people, and I shouldn't project hundreds of years of oppression of black people onto our birds, but when we're putting the chickens to bed at night, part of me feels quite horrified that the black Australorps go in one enclosure and the yellow Orpingtons go in another. Not to mention it's the smallest enclosure. My rational brain says there are good reasons for it: they needed to be separate because they are lowest on the totem pole, not because of their colour but because they are the youngest. And we put them where we do because are they are the smallest subgroup, so logically they should go in the smallest space. But that's my rational brain. The rest of me feels that a colour-segregated chicken coop is just plain wrong.
And then there's gender. We call our pullets and laying hens "girls." For someone who wore a button all through my university days that said "I'm not a girl" and insisted on being called a woman instead, I was shocked to hear myself referring to these birds as "girls." What should I call them? Chicken women?
On top of that, I realized that only four of our sixteen female chickens have names (Marilyn for the blondest of the Orpingtons, Eva for the first hen to lay, and Alice and Gertie for the inseparable Australorps), and even then the names are more theoretical than practical, because we can't really tell them apart (beyond the black versus yellow, of course) unless we get close enough to decipher the codes on their leg bands. On the other hand, every one of the male chickens have (or had...) names: Pee Wee, Big Boy, Hector, Red Toe, Fluffy Butt and No Name (which really was his name). So the male chickens are recognized as individual and special, but the female birds don't rise above an indistinguishable mass. Discrimination!
Although I suppose the reverse discrimination of "if you're female you get to live out your life and if you're male the chances are pretty high you'll wind up in the freezer" probably outweighs any bad feelings the hens might have about being called a girl...