I know this post is going to shock and appall, but if it makes just one person stop and think twice about buying eggs or produce with eggs from caged hens, then I have achieved what I set out to do. I have permission to use the photos that you see, they were taken by a friend during a real rescue. The farm in question is now closed down for good, but there are many like this one and they are very real. The photo above shows just one row of the farm that held 15,000 battery hens.
A battery hen starts her miserable ‘life’ as a hatchery chick. Thousands of chicks are artificially hatched, no mother hen to nurture and protect. The fluffy cute yellow chicks are sexed, the males go along a moving conveyor, drop off the end and down to their death. They are minced alive. Females take another route on the conveyor. At some point they are de-beaked with a hot blade, slicing the tip of their beaks off. This is a painful and common practise to prevent them causing injuries to each other due to frustration and boredom pecking when in the cages together. Often the de-beaking goes wrong and the chick is left with a deformed beak.
The chicks are reared and then transported to their prison. Hens are crammed into tiny cages at 16 weeks old, normally 5 to 6 hens share a cage but at times as many as 8 or 1o hens have been found squashed together. There is not enough space to turn around, preen or flap their wings.They have no perch, no nesting material, no means to dustbathe or carry out natural instincts. They never see or feel the sun, wind, rain or feel grass between their toes. The cages have wire bottoms that are on a slant so that the eggs roll away onto a conveyor belt, their claws are overgrown and their feet are bruised and painful from standing on wire for over a year. No straw nests for these hens, they never even see the eggs that they lay.
When the motor starts up the chains start rattling, the hens go into a frenzy. Yes, its feeding time. Dusty mash is provided as long as the hens can get their necks through the bars of their cage, the weaker hens often get trampled on in the rush to get prime position. Many hens get their beaks caught and maimed in the chain that pulls their food along. Water is provided through a nipple drinker, if a hen is weak or hurt she will go without. These hens survive, they certainly do not have a life. Dead mummified hens have been found in the cages alongside live hens. Some farms use a feed with a hormone additive, this forces the hens to lay twice a day resulting in large swollen bottoms and increasing the risks of hens internal laying from being burnt out. Most battery farms use a feed with chemicals / colourants added to produce bright orange egg yolks, fooling the consumer into believing the egg is as good visually as a fresh free range egg.
After their confinement of approximately 18 months (some longer, depends on the time of year) they are caught by the legs, shackled and killed by having their throats cut or dipped alive into boiling water. You may have eaten a few in your cheap value chicken pie or chicken soup. Some farms deprive hens due for rescue of food, they are not cost-effective to feed if they no longer serve a purpose. The ‘lucky’ hens are rescued and rehomed but a certain number of them cannot be rehomed straight away due to disability, disease or injuries such as broken wings and legs caused by calcium deficiency. Remember, the eggs are important to the farmer, not the hens health. The injured or ‘off their legs’ hens are looked after behind the scenes by the rescues and a handful of dedicated people who foster them till they are healthy enough to be rehomed. Most are crawling with lice and need to be wormed. Although rehoming days are a happy affair, sadly not all of the hens make it but at least they made it out of the cages to die in a dignified way.
I have a couple of these hens that I describe living here with us, once disabled but now living a happy and normal life, just as a chicken should. Im not trying to offend, im trying to get the message out there that this does go on. We are no longer living on rations in a war-torn country, it does not have to be this way if people refuse to allow it to happen. More and more people are turning to free range, organic free range or better still keeping their own hens in the back garden if this is an option. Buy locally if you can, support the British free range farms, put pressure on Tesco’s to stop selling these barbaric eggs on their shelves. Check food labels for ‘hidden’ battery eggs that are in many foods such as ice cream, cakes, Quiche and even baby food. Ask when eating out if the eggs they use are free range. Food labels should read free range egg, products with ingredients that contain egg yolk powder /egg white powder are normally battery eggs.
Please, be their voice.
If you are able to keep a few laying hens in your garden, please contact one of the following rescues and adopt some ex battery hens:
The best sight of all, an empty farm.