When 53-year-old Denise Hobson first heard about the standard animal agriculture practice of "forced molting," by which female chickens are deprived of food and light for up to two weeks in order to artificially jolt their weary bodies into producing more eggs, she was at first appalled - and then inspired to try it herself, to boost her own chances of getting pregnant.
Denise, a single woman living in New York City, explained that she has been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant since the age of 49. As a perimenopausal woman, she was all too aware that her ovulation was becoming increasingly sporadic and that her body was producing fewer and fewer eggs. However, she figured that she would compensate for her decreased fertility simply by increasing the frequency of her unprotected sexual encounters.
Unfortunately, recounted Denise, that plan didn't work out so well. For one, she found that as she approached middle age, she had fewer and fewer opportunities for casual sex. And not only that, the casual encounters she did manage to have were less than satisfying.
"In other words," she summarized ruefully, "casual sex has been increasingly hard to come by. In every sense."
The maternally-called Denise initially turned to her ob-gyn for help in getting pregnant. He recommended expensive fertility treatments, in which eggs from younger, more fertile donors would be implanted into her uterus. However, Denise couldn't afford the pricey procedure.
Then, just when she thought that she might have to relinquish her four-year-long-dream of becoming a middle-aged mom, Denise learned about forced molting.
"When I first saw the conditions of those hens," she said, "I couldn't believe it. They're frail, boney, bald - utterly pathetic! And it occurred to me that if forced molting works for them, why shouldn't it work for me, too? I'm in much better shape."
And so, beginning six months ago, Denise embarked upon her own self-created program of forced - or in her case, voluntarily induced - molting, going weeks at a time without food or natural light in order to jolt her body into ovulating outside its normal cycle. She's found it highly encouraging that, just as molting hens lose their feathers, she has lost all her hair.
That being said, the forced molting process has not been a walk in the park, says Denise - not by any stretch of the imagination.
For one, she'd thought that she'd found the ideal forced molting site in her favorite dark, dingy, food-desert neighborhood dive-bar. Realizing, however, that ingesting copious amounts of cheap beer might not be improving her fertility (although it did seem to improve her chances of having casual sex), Denise has since abandoned her dive-bar molting "shed" in favor of her windowless Manhattan apartment - which, she says, bears a marked similarity to the cramped, light-deprived edifices that house egg-laying hens.
The big question, of course, is...is it working?
Denise thinks so. Although she is not yet pregnant, she is confident that it is only a matter of time before her self-prescribed combination of forced molting and casual sex results in pregnancy.
"I can feel the ovulation," she avows. "Dozens and dozens of eggs, dropping down into my uterus by the day. Oops, there goes another one right now! Did you hear it?"
In fact, Denise believes that her ovulation has been so amped-up by the process of forced molting that she will actually have eggs left over after her pregnancy is complete - eggs which she hopes to sell to a fertility clinic for a hefty fee.
A tender smile appearing on her face, she remarks, "Never too soon to start thinking about my kid's college fund, right?"
Clearly, this middle-aged Manhattan "chick" is already thinking like a mother hen...