Memories Inside a Broiler Chicken House
He woke up on the floor of the broiler 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 had 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 that 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, which 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.