By Lizzy Ellis
A gentle fall breeze cascades down my driveway. As I get off the bus, Lightning the chicken waddles over, scattering the leaves as she goes. I lean down and she hops right up onto my shoulder. Together, we walk up the driveway in the dappled sunlight.
But my journey with Lightning began long before that serene afternoon. It began one day several years ago when my dad arrived with a box. When my sisters and I peered inside, we couldn’t believe our eyes. In the box were six baby chicks, stretching and strutting like feathery micro-dinosaurs. My dad gave us the supplies, but it was up to us to take care of the chickens. Somehow we figured it out. We fed them, we bathed them, we made special tiny pancakes for them, we even carried them around the house much to my mom’s dismay. The chicks were sweet little puffballs that quickly grew into gangly teenager chickens. We did it. We raised them right. And to us, the chickens were friends, not food.
But one chicken was special. That was Lightning. Lightning, a beautiful silver gray chicken, needed me more than the rest. Every time I poked my head outside she would come running. If I leaned down, she’d fly up to my shoulder. On the weekends, I’d bring her Cheerios. She’d eat them from my hand and snuggle up on my lap. It was like we had our own language. If she needed something from me, I somehow understood. Lightning was my constant.
Our time together was too short, but Lightning taught me something about animals that has changed my life. Chickens, and all other animals, feel love toward each other and toward humans. They feel sorrow when another member of their flock is lost. They develop strong emotional bonds. And they feel pain. It was then that I knew I had to make a change.
From then on, I saw how impossible it would be to justify eating animals. I saw how animals are more like us than we want to believe. Not many people feel the same way. When I talked about it at school, even with friends who had chickens, people still didn’t see the connection. After Lightning died, I really needed someone to understand. Finally, through a stroke of luck, I found the YEA Camp. There I met people who shared my perspective on animals and the lives they should be allowed to live.
Lightning taught me that all animals are exceptional. YEA Camp taught me that we can all make a difference.
Lizzy Ellis attended YEA Camp in 2017. She’s a 14 year-old chicken champion and friend to animals everywhere.