Babette arrived in a shroud of mystery. The phone rang: “is this Edgar’s Mission? There’s a package for you at the gate.” And indeed there was. We rushed to the gate, heads brimming with all possibilities, but we could never have expected anything as precious as what awaited. Four cardboard boxes had been ruggedly, yet lovingly, stuck together and air holes carved in the top, with a note reading “Friends not food. Please save us!” Inside sat Babette and her eight siblings.
Let me introduce you to one engaging lady, our friend Babette. Babette is incredibly sensitive, affectionate and loves to welcome her human friends with cuddles. She has bonded with Rosamund, our resident turkey lady, and gives Houdini a run for his money with her penchant for magically appearing in places she shouldn’t actually be. She is the Queen of hearts, having stolen them from all she meets. Babette’s snow white plumage, with puffs of down, covers her burgeoning body, which has been selectively bred to grow—and fast.
If you were to trace back to Babette’s ancestors, you would discover the jungle fowl who still roam the wilderness of South-East Asia. These regal birds are truly something to behold—roosters are adorned with striking technicolour feathers with a rich, iridescent glow. Speckled and striped with cascading plumages that flow from their slender frames like waterfalls, they’re the top and tailed gentry from a bygone era, built not only to catch the eye of their lady suitors but for speed and agility. They can fly to the treetops in bamboo forests and watch their predators scurry by on foot.
Whilst it’s a mystery where Babette and her siblings came from, their plight and desperate need for help was painfully obvious. At around five days old, these babies were already growing faster than their downy feathers could cover and their internal organs could manage. In the last half decade, broiler chickens have been selectively bred to grow 100g per day, this is a growth increase of 300%.1 The pressure on their developing legs can become so immense they struggle to walk and stand, often opting to sit with their heavy breast on the ground.2 Free range and factory farmed alike, these gentle and quirky birds are being reimagined and genetically manipulated to suit our hip pockets and passing taste buds.
By one-month old, still chirping like a chick and fluttering her baby blue eyes, Babette had reached the industry slaughter weight. Babette and her ilk cherish their lives, they look out on this world and want to be a part of it. We’re so thankful she and her siblings wound up on our doorstep, but with a tightening of the chest we know that these few are but a drop in a tremendous ocean of so called “broiler chickens” worldwide.
Today is Find a Rainbow Day, some say finding a rainbow is all about luck, but only if you’re searching for the multicoloured spectrum in the sky. Broiler chickens have been whitewashed into uniformity, but they’re far from uniform where it matters. The bold and glossy regalia intended to be proudly worn by these birds have been bleached white, as to not offend diners with the tiny dart feathers that would otherwise be visible beneath their skin. Along with our friend Cyndi Lauper, we see their true colours shining through, and it’s clear to see they’re beautiful like rainbows. And when we choose to be kind to the animals who rely on us to survive, we too are truly beautiful.