Niall McGrath

Chicken Soup

Warm aroma, inviting tan colour,
Chunky cubes of flesh to bite into…
Mass of feather-fluff within Perspex,
Plucked from the crowded incubator,
She’ll never see sky, grass, trees,
Spends all her days in a wire cage,
No room to rustle her wings,
Dust bath, scratch, dance freely;
Tumbling over and being crawled over by
A crowd of others. Who peck;
Like sparring prison inmates;
And she pecks back.
Until part of her beak’s cut off
So she can no longer preen.
Her brothers are taken away —
They don’t share her ability
To produce eggs, so a couple are gassed,
Though one’s conscious when they’re tossed
Into the crusher, ground up alive;
The other, suffocated, joins them.
Our heroine paces the cage, anxious
To find a spot to nest, never will.
She must squat on a wire floor,
Lay her eggs amidst the cage’s bustle.
Lack of exercise has left her bones weak,
Collisions with mates cause breaks.
Sometimes, there’s no water for days,
Which artificially causes moulting —
The cycle’s speeded up, she lays
Far more than is natural. When it takes
Its toll and no more eggs appear,
She’s jammed into a crate with other
Rejects, thrown around inside on truck
And trolley till a few more bones break,
Such is her existence as a battery hen.
She’s shackled alongside her mates
On a conveyor belt, hanging upside down;
No laws insist she be anaesthetized;
An automated knife slices off her mate’s head.
But it only catches her a glance,
Chops a whack off her crown,
The last thing she sees is the cleaver
In the latex glove as it comes down
To render her into fillets and wings.
The guy handling her with chain mail glove
Is on carcass number sixty-six of ninety
Per minute — for low pay, but if he slacks
He’s out all the same, so he doesn’t
Nip off for a comfort break,
Pisses on the line; his urine
Mingling about the cuts of meat
With the hen’s own faeces
That sprayed out in her final throes.
All the same, her body’s been so damaged
During her brief life it’s not fit for
Roasting, only pies and the like.
Like chicken soup.
Warm aroma, inviting tan colour,
Chunky cubes of flesh to bite into…