Tap tap tap tap… the rhythm of beak on welly. You get used to it after a while. That and the gentle murmur of clucking. It’s actually quite soothing.
We are four girls from Brighton come to Henfield (yes, really!), to help Linda with her few hundred (thousand?) chickens for the day. They are everywhere you can imagine, roosting on piles of dust-laden furniture, atop decomposing vehicles, in barns. Imagine a post-apocolyptic-Mad Max-style future, after the world has become over-run by chickens. Imagine a surreal version of those easter egg hunts they put on for kids. At Hen Heaven the hen’s can lay whenever and wherever they like – sometimes in some very obscure places! A lot of the birds have stopped laying altogether, meaning they would be dead if they hadn’t been saved by Linda. In fact almost all of these birds would have been killed by now if they weren’t here. Unfortunately they can shit wherever they like too and we had the thankless task of scrubbing and scraping and getting covered in chickenshit dust.
Linda made us omelettes for lunch. I have been vegan for over a year. Obviously I had thought about this before coming. I can see no ethical argument against eating these eggs, but it still felt strange. Even as I ate the omelette I questioned if it was the correct thing to do. Am I still a vegan? What does that title mean? Should I follow guidelines in order to call myself that, or am I to follow my own ethics? Is there a word for my new dietary behaviour? Perhaps it’s time to leave these labels behind, but of course that doesn’t mean I am to change my principles.
I became vegan because I want to live as much as possible in accordance with the principle of non-harm. I would not eat eggs from anywhere else. Even ‘free-range’ does not really mean ethical – the birds have marginally more room but they still get slaughtered after a certain age. I had been hearing about Hen Heaven for a long time and know a few otherwise vegans who eat these eggs, but I still wanted to come and work here and see them for myself before I ate them. My pondering continues.