Wednesday, May 12, 2010

National Egg Month...Let's thank those Chickens!

May is National Egg Month. Of course I am more interested in this subject now that we have chickens. I love having fresh eggs everyday. I realize I have had had my fair share of chicken "mishaps" but for the most part our chickens are happy. Well, except the ones that have died, but they were happy until then!

I've not thought much about where the eggs in the store came from. I saw pictures of happy little chickens on the cartons. All smiley and content. I pictured them on their farm running around digging for worms, and soaking up the sun. Clucking, foraging, laying. Yes...all in that order. And that is what my hens do. I feel proud that I have managed to (somewhat) master this whole laying hen thing. I realize more than ever just how lucky these hens are. As Jerry puts it, "They landed with their butts in butter."

Unfortunately, those egg cartons in the store are pulling our legs. Here is what they really live like.

Caged for life without exercise while constantly drained of calcium to form egg shells, battery hens develop the severe osteoporosis of intensive confinement know as caged layer fatigue. Calcium depleted, millions of hens become paralyzed and die of hunger and thirst inches from their food and water.

Hens live in a poisoned atmosphere. Toxic ammonia rises from the decomposing uric acid in the manure pits beneath the cages to cause ammonia-burned eyes and chronic respiratory disease in millions of hens. Studies of the effect of ammonia on eggs suggest that even at low concentrations significant quantities of ammonia can be absorbed into the egg. Hens to be used for another laying period are force molted to reduce the accumulated fat in the reproductive systems and regulate prices by forcing the hens to stop laying for a couple of months. In the force molt, producers starve the hens for four to fourteen days causing them to lose 25 to 30 percent of their body weight along with their feathers. Water deprivation, drugs such as chlormadinone, and harsh light and blackout schedules can be part of this brutal treatment.

This system depends on debeaking and antibiotics. Many of the antibiotics used to control the rampant viral and bacterial diseases of chickens in crowded confinement can also be used to manipulate egg production. For example, virginiamycin is said to increase feed conversion per egg laid, bacitracin to stimulate egg production, and oxytetracycline to improve eggshell quality. In Factory Farming (1991), Andrew Johnson says virtually 100 percent of laying hens in the United States are routinely dosed with antibiotics (p. 29).

At the end of the laying period, the hens are flung from the factory to the transport cages by their wings, legs, head, feet, or whatever is grabbed. Many bones are broken. Chicken "stuffers" are paid for speed, not gentleness. Half-naked from feather loss and terrorized by a lifetime of abuse, hens in transit embody a state of fear so severe that many are paralyzed by the time they reach the slaughterhouse. At slaughter the hens are a mass of broken bones, oozing abscesses, bright red bruises, and internal hemorrhaging making them fit only for shredding into products that hide their true state, such as chicken soups and pies, school lunches and other food programs developed by the egg industry to dump dead laying hens onto consumers in diced up form.

Here is what they should live like...

I mentioned in a previous post about the fate of all of the little Chick Magnets hatched....I am so tempted to post pictures but since I have kids reading this blog, I will refrain. The fact is, male chickens are viewed as a by product and are treated just as that.
To date, there are no federal welfare laws regulating poultry raising, transport, or slaughter in the United States. The U.S. egg industry opposes humane slaughter legislation for poultry, claiming that laying fowl cannot be economically rendered insensible to pain prior to having their throats cut or being decapitated. There is no reason to assume the industry will reform of its own accord. Supporting humane treating of these animals could include buying only local farm eggs. Provided by chickens who are living the way they were created to live, therefore providing a superior, healthier product.
Many people have decided to have "Backyard Chickens." Most cities will allow 2-3 hens. Here is a great website to get you started:

I really enjoyed the book

Keep Chickens
Tending Small Flocks in Cities,
Suburbs, and Other Small Places
by Barbara Kilarski

I don't mean to be such a downer. I could have just posted my favorite egg recipes and told you about all of the health benefits from Organic Free Range Eggs and called it good. But then I look out my window and see my hens kicking around in the dirt. I hear one hollering because she just layed another egg. Then I think of the Battery Hens, crammed in those small cages, never to see the light of day...and I feel angry. One good reason to support local farming is the humane treatment of animals. Another reason is for a superior and healthier product....a product that you eventually put in your mouth.

1 comment:

  1. Oh thank you thank you thank for this post!!! I had always wanted chickens and last summer sucked it up and got four pullets!! Banning really didn't understand what 'fresh' eggs were until our hens started laying. I was raised on fresh farm eggs and I love having my chickens. This summer we upped our flock to 7 =). Unfortunately due to a few resident hawks, eagles & racoons I cannot free range my flock. BUT recently I fenced off and area that I can let them in once in a while so they know what it's like to scratch and forage in the grass...they love it!! I watched the documentary called "Food, Inc", what an eye opener. So glad that you love your chickens....we love ours too. And really, all in all if you sit outside and watch them...they are very entertaining LOL.