6/3/11

Student finds passion for activism - Beverly Citizen

By Katrina Powell, June 9, 2011

Stella is a social butterfly, Alice is a chatterbox and Paprika acts as the boss lady, keeping everyone in line. While these may sound like the personalities of characters on a television series, they are, in fact, chickens.

Orren Fox, an eighth-grader at The Glen Urquhart School in Beverly, owns 23 hens, three roosters and four ducks and claims that they have as much personality as domestic pets like cats and dogs.

“They all have really funny personalities and it’s fun to see them interact with one another,” said Fox said, who lives in Newburyport.

Fox, 9, initially acquired a batch of 12-day-old chicks from a gardening and agricultural store back in 2007, and was instantly intrigued by the birds.

“I’m not sure what got me interested, but one little thing just sparked an interest inside me,” Fox said.

“My husband and I certainly didn’t know the first thing about birds when he brought them home,” said Fox’s mother, Libby DeLana. “But there’s nothing like seeing your child so engaged in something.”

Fox was in forth grade when he first brought home his birds, and despite his young age, he rose to the occasion and took on the responsibility of raising and caring for his young pets. Fox explained that the birds started out as clueless chicks and he was responsible for showing the babies how to find food and water. He now spends about a half hour each day after school feeding the full-grown chickens and providing them with clean water, as well as sweeping their cages and collecting eggs.

“It sounds like a lot of work, but once you do it everyday for years, it just becomes something you do,” Fox said.
The birds have a cozy home within three large cages that are set up inside the family’s barn, and some birds just run free inside the barn, Fox said. It’s safe to say these chickens won’t be flying the coop anytime soon.

“They definitely have plenty of room and they’re pretty happy,” Fox said. “You should have a minimum of five square feet per bird.”

A year after receiving the chicks, Fox entered the fifth grade and learned that his class at Glen Urquhart required a research project. Because of his love for his pets, he chose to conduct his project on, what else, chickens. But when he began to conduct the research for the project, Fox didn’t like what he found out.

“What really caught my eye was the egg-laying business,” Fox said. “I discovered that most factory farms will cram eight birds into an 18 inch by 18 inch cage with little food and they are literally clawing each other’s backs because there is no room. It’s really a miserable situation.”

Fox added that chickens will lay the majority of their eggs within their first year of life, and after that time, the chickens are sent to the chopping block. Another unsettling area of research for Fox was what he found on the birds that are raised primarily for meat purposes.

“The get treated so badly and they are injected with hormones and steroids,” Fox said.

Fox explained that after opening his eyes to the inhumane treatment of chickens, he knew that he was doing the right thing by raising his own chickens.

“My own birds will never have to go through that,” Fox said. “Chickens felt great as pets but then I really realized that I was doing something really good by keeping them away from bad treatment.”

Fox has been featured on NPR, Time for Kids, Ranger Rick and Yankee Magazine for his research, and even discussed his knowledge with the masses during a seminar that was held in May at his school called Greenspiration. The seminar was attended by approximately 40 people, and featured stations where students and parents could learn about gardening, farming and agriculture. Fox’s personable chickens were also in attendance.

“It was a fun little event for people to learn how to start something sustainable in their own backyard,” Fox said. “I think it was really successful.”

“The Glen Urquhart School is so incredible,” DeLana said. “To be honest, it’s amazing for a child to be able to be interested in something, anything, and no matter what it is, the children are open to it and think it’s cool.”

Although the research started out as a school project on raising chickens, it quickly evolved into a full-time commitment for Orren, as he decided to start a blog and Twitter page in 2008 to share his information with the masses.

“It just started as a hand-written journal but people then wanted to know what I was writing and they had questions about their own birds,” Fox said. “I’m now just trying to spread the word [about inhumane treatment] so that people will get their own birds and raise them in their backyards.”

Today, Fox has a blog readership and more than 3,000 followers on Twitter (@happychickens), with whom he shares his knowledge and opinions on the humane treatment of chickens and other animals, healthy eating, and the environment.

“It’s really nice to know that what I’m writing is read by a lot of people,” Fox said. “It motivates me to write more.”

Fox tries to update his blog several times a week, adding interesting articles about the subject and even pictures of his own chickens. Fox explained that it doesn’t take much to make a difference.

“Not a lot of people know about how badly chickens are treated but it’s important information to know,” Fox said. “It just a simple little thing of treating some birds nicely. I think that if I can treat some chickens nicely, it’s better than none.”

Fox added that chickens that are raised in a comfortable setting will lay eggs that taste much better than if they are raised on factory farms. He explained that if people are unable to raise their own chickens, they can still promote humane treatment by purchasing eggs from a local farm, and finding a local supplier of meat where the animals are ethically raised.

“I would say that if you feel happy about supporting the way that the animals you eat are treated, then I would continue to buy from that supplier,” Fox said. “But if you aren’t happy about how they are treated, then I would do something about it.”

1 comment:

Alexis E. said...

You are an excellent blogger and I always enjoy reading what you have to say. Great article!

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