While many people will argue that raising your own hens is a much better alternative to factory farms, when we look more closely at the reality of backyard eggs there are still many worrying issues that are often overlooked.
Where Do The Hens Come From and What Happens to The Males?
One of the main problems when it comes to backyard hens is where do the hens come from in the first place? Almost all hens who are bred to lay eggs start their lives in hatcheries where there are no laws in place to regulate how they are treated. Seen as mere production units, all male chicks are killed immediately after hatching by being ground up alive or tossed in giant trash bins, as they are considered useless because they cannot lay eggs. Female chicks are boxed and shipped through the postal service without food and water, often arriving at their destination dead, after being crushed alive. Others are shipped off to farm stores where they spend their days in tiny cages until someone buys them.
Hens Require an Incredible Amount of Support and Protection
Bred into a state of constant dependence, unfortunately farmed animals like hens now rely on our intervention to keep them alive. Hens are extremely vulnerable to predators such as foxes, snakes, birds of prey, and even cats, and they present a constant danger to backyard hens. Providing them with adequate space, where their safety is guaranteed is incredibly expensive as you will need predator proof fencing, housing and in many cases aerial cover.
Protecting them from outside dangers is not the only thing hens need protection from. Our domestication of hens has seen them genetically modified to the point where they produce an unnatural amount of eggs, greatly compromising their personal health. Naturally, hens only lay two clutches of eggs (groups of eggs produced and incubated) a year for the purpose of rearing their young, but hens bred for the egg industry lay one egg almost every day.
Laying eggs depletes the hens of calcium and other vital nutrients, causing osteoporosis and all sorts of other painful conditions. It also puts them at great risk of egg binding where the hen is unable to lay because the egg has become stuck inside her oviduct or clocoa. They are also prone to peritonitis where the egg breaks prior to being laid causing an infection which eventually leads to her internal organs becoming squashed. Finding a vet to treat such conditions and take care of the hen in the same way as companion animals may be difficult or impossible to find, and then the cost of veterinary care for these kind of issues is considerably high and could be ongoing for the remainder of the hens life
Cody and Maureen/Flickr
At Some Point Hens Will Stop Laying Eggs
Like all females, hens eventually lose the ability to be reproductively active and as a result will stop producing eggs. This decline usually occurs around two years of age, and as hens can live for anywhere up to 10 years, not many people are willing to continue investing the large amount of time, money and effort required to care for the hen when this happens.
Eggs Aren’t Even Healthy Anyway
Despite what the food industry will have us believe, eggs are not an ideal food for human health. Humans have absolutely no nutritional need to consume eggs, and in fact, eggs are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, and have been linked to diabetes, cancer and many other chronic illnesses. With so many plant-based egg alternatives that serve exactly the same purpose, eggs are a completely unnecessary addition to the diet.
If eating eggs isn’t necessary, and it contributes to an unthinkable amount of pain and suffering for the hens, then why do it?
Raising your own hens does nothing to truly take a stand against factory farming, as animal commodification and consumption is what is at the core of the industry and the only real way to say no to this injustice is to reject the use of animals all together.
Image source: Peter Cooper/Flickr