Chickens on campus? What!?
While taking my usual stroll to class one morning, I was casually greeted by two chickens. They ran up to me from a hedge, clucking at me as if they wanted something. Maybe they were just tame or they simply associated humans like me with free food. Regardless, coming across chickens while walking to class was pretty strange.
Why did this experience seem so strange to me? The first thing that came across my mind was how these chickens even got to the USF campus. Chickens are animals that we tend to only see in farms where they are held as products for consumption. But to see them roaming the small reserve-like area with other wildlife was pretty unique. Maybe those chickens were supposed to be on someone’s plate. Considering Braidotti’s reference of animals such as chickens to constitute an “industrial resource” within themselves and, I’ll take a shot at explaining why I may have deemed this experience to be strange.
Whenever a chicken comes across one’s mind, thoughts of its use for consumption are usually brought up. A chicken’s meat and eggs for food and it’s skin and feathers for use as accessories are just common examples. Wildlife that aren’t commonly used for human consumption such as doves, squirrels, moose, etc., are not given the same direction of thought as do animals such as chickens since their bodies aren’t classified as “industrial production plants,” therefore having less to offer to our anthropocentric society. Houser states in Volume 12, Issue 2 that “non-humans brought into human spaces-houses, labs, and farms- particularly bear the multiple ways dominion is manifested” (Houser, 23). The consumption I talked about earlier is directly related to the dominion imposed upon animals like chickens. These chickens are kept in human spaces from the moment they hatch to the moment they are harvested, strictly adhering to the will of the farmer. Because the chicken is a commonly consumed farm animal, society has naturally learned to see a right of ownership upon them.
Due to of our association of chickens with factories that constantly package them as goods for our use, we don’t really expect chickens to be anywhere else other than a farm. We forget to realize that they were once free from domestication and dominion for consumption.
These chickens are roaming a small patch of land on USF. They have not been there for a very long time; a thread on Reddit claims that they were first sighted near the Psychology building nearly two years ago. Nobody knows how they got there. The chickens just suddenly decided to join the little patch’s ecosystem. They may have escaped a previous human dominated ecology, whether it be a farm or someone’s backyard, to join the one on the small patch. They could have also just been released.
The appearance of these chickens is most similar to the case of the the Rhesus Macaque in 2009 noted in Kirskey’s “Becoming Wild” section. The monkey, just like the chickens, mysteriously appeared one day in Tampa, FL and decided to just chill on a tree. The monkey may have drawn similar thoughts from people just like how the chickens did to me. People probably assumed that the monkey may have been part of an existing dominion such as a laboratory. Like the chickens, the monkey seemed out of place and was a new rivet drilled into the ecology where it decided to settle. However, the monkey’s sudden appearance stirred much more public concern and attention in a single day than the chickens have in the past two years. Public concern went as far as to try to tranquilize the monkey in order to have it removed. Why were people so quick to try to have the monkey removed?
The immediate concern of the presence of the monkey by many was the possible risk of the “flux” between the monkey’s settlement and that of civilization. People felt that the monkey in some ways inhibited the flux between human civilization and the environment right by them due to their concerns for public safety. Because the monkey was not under human dominion, like how it would be in a zoo or a laboratory, they believed it to be a dangerous animal capable of doing anything unregulated by human rule. Environmental concern was also present. People didn’t know how the monkey would interact with the environment and mostly feared the damages it could cause to the present ecosystem.
The chickens, however, neither pose no real threat to the “flux” between two ecologies nor have showed signs of damage to their environment. Although they seemed to have escaped a dominion, they are nothing more than walking poultry. Houser says that “rather than commune with beings in the beings, we classify, define, and rate the whatness and isness of their lives, such as breed characteristics” (Houser, 22). This statement seems to be present in animals that exist under a dominion, whether it be domestication or captivity for consumption or research. Although it seemed strange to me to see chickens outside of human dominion, I have to respect the fact that these chickens have succeeded in doing so and are just living the usual lives non-domestic chickens do.
Kirksey, Eben. “Emergent Ecologies.” Becoming Wild (2015): 93-106. Web.
Braidotti, Rosi. “Animals, Anomalies, and Inorganic Others.” Pmla 124.2 (2009): 526-32. Web.
Houser, Marie. “GRACE FOR A CURE: POISONED ETHICS AND DISABLED-NONHUMAN IMAGES.” Journal for Critical Animal Studies (2014): 17-25. Web. 2017.