The Life of Commercial Egg-Laying Hens
Today’s commercial egg-producing business is not what it was 30-40 years ago. The vast majority of today’s eggs come from enormous indoor factory farms where for 18 months multiple hens are crowded uncomfortably into tiny, cramped “battery cages,” where the birds cannot move, walk, turn around, stand or stretch their wings; their waste is so concentrated that the ammonia in the fumes burns their eyes and blinds them and makes breathing painful; the living conditions are so claustrophobic, dark and stressful for them, that they strike and peck at each other in frustration; they are “de-beaked” where the sensitive upper beak is cut off causing many to die from shock during the painful procedure; hens receive no veterinary care as it would mean less profit for the egg industry, so they live in chronic pain and suffering; and many if not all of these hens suffer silently with infections, reproductive cancers, skin diseases, osteoporosis and reproductive problems caused by producing about 15 times the normal number of eggs than hens normally produce. Any and all normal chicken behaviors are completely thwarted — like walking, nest building, scratching the ground, perching and dust bathing.
While free-range or cage-free does not mean cruelty-free, cage-free can reduce the suffering of egg-laying hens depending on the farm.
The life of commercial egg-laying hens:
- Extremely crowded, stressful conditions inside dark buildings with no natural light.
- Hens constantly smell and breathe in fumes and gases from their own waste including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, and never get the opportunity to breathe fresh air.
- Hens are forcibly de-beaked, a procedure where their beaks are cut off and removed due to the constant stress they’re under, and their beaks never grow back.
- Hens cannot walk, spread their wings, turn around or enjoy any of the natural physical behaviors inherent to them; they can never walk outside or see the light of day.
- Hens raised on cage-free farms typically do not roam around barns and outside yards, like the advertising falsely shows.
- Chick hatcheries kill all male chicks when they’re born, since they cannot use them for egg-laying. Millions and millions of male chicks are immediately killed upon hatching by suffocation, then are discarded or ground up and used as animal feed or fertilizer.
- Hens are forcibly impregnated, until their bodies are so exhausted and depleted from egg-laying that they get sick —they get cancers, tumors, and other reproductive organ diseases, and suffer miserably until they are slaughtered.
- After a hen’s production starts to decline because they are physically worn out and spent — they are then slaughtered and used as animal feed or fertilizer.
- Slaughter for hens means they are captured in a cruel manner often injuring them, then hung upside down in shackles at the slaughterhouse, where their throats are slit and immediately immersed in scalding hot water, often still conscious throughout the entire process. Hens are not stunned first before their throats are cut.
Over 98% of the egg market is under the control of huge agribusiness corporations that run factory farms.
- Try to stop buying eggs altogether, but if you do buy eggs, buy only free-range or cage-free eggs, which does reduce the level of suffering for hens.
- Consider an egg substitute like Tofu Scrambler instead of scrambled eggs or try egg replacer in your baked goods.
- Tell your family and friends about the cruel, inhumane conditions and animal welfare problems that egg-laying hens are subjected to.
- Learn more about factory farms and industrial animal agriculture and why it’s such a significant threat to animal welfare, the environment, natural ecosystems, habitats and wildlife, and human health.
- Support state legislation that will end the use of cruel confinement systems for hens.
- Call your politicians and ask them to get involved and support animal welfare laws, and keep track of their voting record. Here’s some ideas.
- Spread the word! Tell others about the plight of battery caged egg-laying hens and factory farming. Share on social media and help get the word out!
Photo Credit: Farm Sanctuary (farm sanctuary.org)