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« We Are Finalists, Thanks to You! | Main | Downed Pigs Deserve Better »

December 10, 2009


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The kinds of chickens many backyard chicken-keepers keep aren't likely to become nonproductive after a year. That's factory-farming hens that are like that -- they're bred to produce a lot of eggs FAST, then be culled. Heritage breeds lay for years, and many families consider these birds pets and would no more cull an unproductive hen than they would a dog that is no longer young.


We have a wide variety of hens on our shelters, including jungle fowl, bantams, Wyandotte, Barred Rocks, and a number of other heritage breeds. Our direct experience has shown that many of the “heritage” breeds have been selectively bred to lay large numbers of eggs, just like those used on factory farms.

Also, while there is variation between breeds, and even between different hens of the same breeds, all hens decline in production as they age; that’s just a fact of life. Those who are prolific layers when they’re young continue to have the highest production as they age, relative to other hens of the same age. It’s not that the hens become “non-productive” after a year, but production does go down, and as it does, there is more incentive for many (not all) hobby farmers to slaughter or euthanize them.

Furthermore, many would-be backyard chicken farmers often fail to realize how difficult (not to mention expensive) it can be to provide high quality veterinary care to chickens. Most small animal vets have very little experience caring for chickens and the common problems they face, especially as they get older.

Finally, another important point that many hobby farmers seem to miss is that regardless of how well their own hens are treated, and regardless of whether they will provide lifelong care, just as they would for a dog or cat, the initial act of purchasing hens supports terrible cruelty at the industrial hatcheries that supply virtually all egg farmers, big or small.

I'm late with this article however I keep a few Chickens as pets.

I got them from people who no longer wanted them and have been living happily with them since.

They have a nice sized coup and are treated very well.

I don't agree completely with you, but I am worried about how many people are talking chickens with no knowledge or experience causing problems with the birds.

Most people nowadays were bound by the intention of keeping chickens solely for eggs only. I think it is important that most newly chicken raisers to understand how to love chickens as other pet before they can actually keep them. Those poor litte feathered friend deserved more than being treated as an egg laying machines.


Chicken coop plans

Laying hens in general have been bred to lay too many eggs - this started centuries ago. In nature, birds lay enough eggs for the species to propagate - typically one or two clutches a year, then their bodies get a rest. Since egg production requires resources and energy from a hen's body, it makes little sense in nature for a hen to be laying far more eggs than necessary.

Generally speaking, if a hen is laying eggs all year round, it's probably because of years of selective breeding for increased egg production. This in itself causes a hardship on the hen, and also increases the risk of painful complications such as prolapse, and may increase the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers. We certainly see this at the sanctuary where I volunteer.

Also, to repeat an earlier comment, egg production does tend to decline as birds get older, regardless of breed.

Finally, an amen to Daniel's comment. Let us stop seeing particular species of birds as egg factories for our use. I believe in time we can get un-used to the idea of birds "supplying" eggs for us. We don't covet the eggs from a cardinal's nest, do we?

Baking without eggs is a cinch. Eggless baked good creations have won awards at state fairs and cooking competitions, and non-vegetarians rave about vegan baked goods at vegan bake sales. It's simple to learn how to make tofu scrambles that takes the place of scrambled eggs. After about three or four times, the taste buds adjust and tofu scramble becomes the new scrambled eggs. It's such a wonderfully versatile dish, too. See for 13,000 vegan recipes, including eggless scrambles and "egg salads" and tons of baked goods.

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Gene Baur, President and Co-founder of Farm Sanctuary

Gene grew up in Hollywood, California and worked in commercials for McDonald's and other fast food restaurants. He adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1985, and today, he campaigns to raise awareness about the negative consequences of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. He lives in Washington, DC and is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary. Read more.

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