Motherless Days – In the “Broiler” Shed, He Remembers
A Meat and Dairy Industries Article from


Karen Davis, PhD, UPC United Poultry Concerns
May 2018

Ancestral memories compete with personal experience within the soul of a “factory farm” chicken as he dies, followed by “The Baby Chicken Song.”

Purdue chicken
Suffering baby rooster photo by MFA Mercy for Animals

He woke up on the floor of the shed with 30 thousand other bewildered young chickens under the electric lights, with the familiar pain in his throat and a burning sensation deep inside his eyes. . . .

He saw green leaves shining through flashes of sunlight, as he peeked through his mother’s feathers and heard the soft awakening cheeps of his brothers and sisters, and felt his mother’s heart beating next to his own through her big warm body surrounding him, which was his world.

A crow cried out, and another cried out again.

He started – the spry, young jungle fowl was ready for the day, ready to begin scratching the soil which he had known by heart ever since way back when chickenhood first arose in the tropical magic mornings of the early world. In the jungle forest, the delicious seeds of bamboo that are hidden beneath the leaves on the ground are treasured in the heart of the chicken.

The rooster called out excitedly: “Family, come see what food I’ve found for you this morning!” . . .

His aching legs – they brought him back to reality as he closed his eyes stinging with ammonia burn – could not move. They could no longer bear the weight of flesh which bore down upon them, which was definitely not the body of a mother hen. A mother hen, an ancestral memory kept telling him over and over, had once shushed and lulled him to sleep, pressed against her body nestled deep inside her wings fluffed over him when he was a chick. That was a long time ago, long before he was a “broiler” chicken, crippled and encased in these cells of fat and skeletal pain. He was turning purple. His lungs filled slowly with fluid, leaking from his vessels backward through the valves of his heart, as he stretched out on the filthy litter in a final spasm of agony, and died.

– Karen Davis, “Memories Inside a ‘Broiler’ Chicken House”

 dying chicken
Inside a Maryland Chicken House - Photo by Garett Seivold

Eastern Shore chicken warehouse
Photo by Bruce Andrew Peters, who told UPC: “I took this one on the Virginia Eastern Shore. It was replete with warnings to stay away, due to ‘disease hazards,’ which begs the question why their ‘product’ is sold for consumption.”

baby chick

The Baby Chicken Song
by Karen Davis

To the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”

Chicken, chicken, why aren’t you
With your mother hen so true?
Pecking, playing, running around,
Taking sunbaths on the ground.
Chicken, chicken, why aren’t you
With your mother hen so true?

Chicken, chicken, why aren’t you
With your sisters and brothers, too?
Scratching, running, having fun,
Taking dustbaths in the sun.
Chicken, chicken, why aren’t you
With your sisters and brothers, too?

Chicken, chicken, baby bird
May your cheeping cries be heard,
Hushed and soothed by those who see
We are all one family.
Chicken, chicken, why aren’t you
With your mother hen so true?

chicken familyChicken Family Out for a Stroll, Hyderabad India - Photo by George Slatin. Reprinted with permission by Chicken Run Rescue. 

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