In Deuteronomy 22:6, we read the following command:

“If you chance upon a bird’s nest along the road, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs, and the mother is sitting over the fledglings or the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young.”

Leviticus 22:28 commands us not to slaughter the mother bird w/ it’s chicks on the same day. The Rambam in his Guide to the Perplexed explains that animals also have feelings, too. He writes,

“[Regarding the slaughtering of animals,] the Law enjoins that the death of the animal should be the easiest. It is not allowed to torment the animal by cutting the throat in a clumsy manner, by poleaxing, or by cutting off a limb whilst the animal is alive.”

The same love that illuminates from a mother is duplicated in the love of a mother bird. People and birds share the same faculty for love and tenderness. The Rambam goes on to say that we should avoid hurting animals. The Rambam shows compassion for humans, too, writing that we should not eat the eggs of the bird because the food may not be healthy (or kosher) and it teaches consideration for other people. The same applies to the mother bird who sits nestled on her nest. We should shoo her away to prevent her from seeing the deaths of her young, for it pains her to see her young taken, boiled, and eaten. It may even prompt us to leave the nest untouched and the chicks alive if the eggs are unfit for consumption. But Nachmanides disagrees. He contends:

“…that it was not a matter of G-d’s mercy extending to the bird’s nest or the dam and its young, since His mercies did not extend so far with them, for, if so, He would have forbidden slaughter altogether. But the reason for the prohibition [against taking the dam with its nest, or against killing the dam with its young in one day] is [only] to teach us the trait of compassion and that we should not be cruel, for cruelty proliferates in man’s soul.”

Nachmanides adds a mystical reason to the mitzvah but does not elaborate.

My question: If G-d created birds, why should He command we eat them? Why didn’t He make us all vegetarian so the birds could live? I am interested in the birds' specificity. What is the logic behind this mitzvah?


In terms of whether should do Shiluach Hakan if one has no need/ interest in the eggs, a Torah.org article titled "The Mitzvah Of Shiluach HaKan" addresses this question:

QUESTION: Is the mitzvah of shiluach ha-kan obligatory or optional? In other words, if one observes a mother bird roosting on a nest but has no need for the eggs [or young birds] – is he still obligated to cast away the mother bird and take the eggs in order to fulfill the mitzvah?

DISCUSSION: A minority view holds that even one who has no need for the eggs [or young birds] is obligated to send the mother bird away and establish [at least temporary] halachic ownership of them.(Chavos Yair 67 and Mishnas Chachamim, quoted by Pischei Teshuvah Y.D. 292:1; Aruch ha-Shulchan Y.D. 292:1-2.) According to this view, the mitzvah of shiluach ha-kan is an obligation similar to the mitzvah of hashovas aveidah, returning a lost item to its owner.

But most poskim reject this approach and rule that one is obligated to send away the mother only if he wishes to keep the eggs or baby birds

(see Chasam Sofer O.C. 100; Avnei Nezer O.C. 481; Meromei Sadeh, Chulin 139b; Chazon Ish Y.D. 175:2.)
Still, while we rule that one is not obligated to send the mother bird away if he has no interest in the eggs or young birds, many poskim recommend that one do so nevertheless
(see Birkei Yosef Y.D. 292:6 and Aruch Hashulchan 1.)

The whole article is a worthwhile read, addressing many different facets of this special mitzvah.

| improve this answer | |

A simple answer suggests the following: If you desire a meal with the eggs, it is commanded in the Torah to scare away the mother bird so she does not see her young taken. If you do no desire the eggs, we leave the birds alone.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    While this does answers the question, I was hoping for sources supporting your view, though. – Shmuel Aug 27 '19 at 18:11
  • Welcome to MiYodeya Jonathan and thanks for this first answer. MY is putting significant emphasis on sources since we don't really know you. And since MY is different from other sites you might be used to, see here for a guide which might help understand the site. Great to have you learn with us! – mbloch Aug 28 '19 at 5:49

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .