How Much Do Eggs Cost the Birds?

By Mary Britton Clouse
Founder of Chicken Run Rescue

Fad or Enduring Change?

Living with chickens presents opportunities and challenges to rethink our relationship with the most unjustly treated land animals on the planet. Will familiarity engender respect for them as sentient individuals and reshape our behavior toward them, or will they continue to be viewed as a means to our whims?

The opportunity for ethical evolution lies in enabling us to learn firsthand that chickens are intelligent, vivacious individuals who form lifelong emotional bonds with each other and other species. They are warm, silky and lovely to hold.

They are primarily ground-dwelling birds who are very home centered and can thrive in a typical urban backyard and home. They coexist happily with compatible dogs and cats and have life spans of 12 -14 years. Their wild relatives can live 30+ years.

A shift in thought about who is “food” and who is “pet” could mean a less violent world for the chickens and other animals trapped in a food production hell hidden from view: “Free range” and “cage free” birds meet their factory-farmed cousins at the same slaughter plants. Each year in the U.S., over 10 billion chickens suffer from intense confinement, cruel handling and painful, terrifying deaths. Although they represent over 95% of the animals raised for agricultural and other purposes, chickens are excluded from anticruelty laws, humane slaughter laws, and laws that regulate experimentation.

“Humanely Sustainable” vs. Ugly Reality

The challenge is to help people who think they are creating a more “sustainable” world understand how much their eggs cost the birds:

By 2 years old, hens begin to develop reproductive problems from incessant egg laying, which is completely unnatural and ultimately kills them. All domesticated hens have been manufactured for this trait by genetic modification and selective breeding.

Because of the constant wear on her system, hens develop enlarged livers, other vital organ pathologies, and/or tumors. Often, the oviduct (a tube through which eggs pass from the ovary) disintegrates and the egg material ruptures into the body cavity and rots, slowly poisoning her with egg peritonitis. The pressure from enlarged organs and fluid build-up prevents her digestive tract from functioning, so she is literally starving to death.

Inconvenient Truth: Roosters

For every backyard hen, a rooster is killed or abandoned. Only hens are wanted for eggs. Since they have no commercial value, in the U.S. alone a quarter billion male chicks are destroyed at the hatchery, as soon as their sex is determined. They are suffocated in garbage or ground up alive for fertilizer or feed. Unwanted baby roosters are often shipped as “packing material.” No laws protect these chicks from any cost-efficient (read: cruel) method of disposal the producer chooses.

At a hatchery, of 80,000 chicks hatched per week, 40,000 never see their second day. Whether they are purchased by an individual or a corporation, directly from a hatchery or from a local supplier who bought them from a hatchery, the same industry benefits, and the roosters are killed. Not “sustainable” if you are a rooster.

Urban animal farming is an extension of, not a “humane alternative” to, mass production. Inbreeding for egg or meat production, beak mutilation, separation of chicks from their mothers, mail-order shipping, confinement, disposal of unwanted males, and exhausted females whose egg-laying has declined: These are the truths behind the labels.

What Can We Do?

What’s a local food advocate to do? Veganics, also known as “stock-free,” “vegan organic” and “plant-based,” is a form of agriculture that goes beyond organic standards by eliminating the use of products derived from confined animals and by encouraging the presence of wild native animals on the farmland.

We want the human/chicken bond to evolve into one of companionship. Eating plants costs us little. Eating their eggs costs the birds their lives. – Mary Britton Clouse, Chicken Run Rescue

Henmaid's Tale by Mary Britton Clouse
Photo by Chicken Run Rescue
The Henmaid’s Tale.
Artwork by Mary Britton Clouse.