NEW YORK, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Most U.S. citizens oppose common but controversial techniques used by egg producers to stimulate egg production in starving hens, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

The practices received widespread publicity in August when McDonald's Corp. said it would no longer buy eggs from producers who fail to provide humane conditions for chickens.

The poll, conducted by Zogby America for Watkins Glen, New York-based Farm Sanctuary, showed that 75.4 percent of respondents found it unacceptable to starve hens for over a week in order to induce the hens' bodies to "molt," stimulating the egg production cycle and increasing production.

The telephone poll surveyed 1,204 adults across the country between Sept. 15 and Monday.

Farm Sanctuary Director Gene Bauston said the poll results indicated widespread support for McDonald's action, the first by a major U.S. restaurant chain. Farm Sanctuary is an animal welfare group with more than 75,000 members.

"The egg industry routinely subjects hens to inhumane living conditions which offend public sentiments," Bauston said. "We believe that McDonald's recent action sends an important and powerful message to the egg industry."

He said most of the 300 million egg-laying hens in the United States are confined in small wire cages that are lined up and stacked in tiers in factory-like warehouses.

Hens are crowded so tightly they cannot stretch their wings. Bauston said these conditions are outlawed in Europe.

According to the Zogby poll, 86.2 percent of respondents said it was unacceptable to confine egg-laying hens in these types of restrictive conditions.

In late August McDonald's, which buys 2 billion eggs a year, said it would no longer do business with farmers who withdraw food and water rom the hens. The fast food chain also said it would not buy eggs rom suppliers who trimmed the birds' beaks to keep them from hurting ach other.

7:57 09-19-00 Copyright 2000 Reuters Limited.