As an animal lover and a strict vegetarian, I always feel a stab of pity when I hear stories of animals abandoned, hurt or killed. I also hate hearing about the manner in which animals are treated in industry, such as farming or cosmetics. One such animal that suffers at the hands of commercial need are chickens. An animal which my family have taken to rescuing and re-homing. This blog looks at the treatment of mass farmed birds and why re-homing them can be so beneficial to you and them and why, if you do take them on, you may not eat chicken again!
The Battery Hen – Eggs
Everyone knows, whether they like to think about it or not, that these animals are living in poor conditions. Caged eggs may be cheap but they are not humane or even tasty when compared to fresh free range ones. Often too many being squeezed into cages too small, their legs are weak as they have no room to stand or walk to allow their muscles to grow and bones to strengthen. Broken hips and legs are a very common occurrence in caged farms. They peck their feathers out of their skin due to boredom which can lead to bullying and pecking that can result in horrific injury and even death. Their combs are pale and floppy rather than red and upright which shows they are underfed, malnourished and unhappy. Disease and infection is also rife with so many birds in one small contained space with dirty bedding and shared feed as well as dead birds being left in cages to be eaten. These eggs may be cheap, but they cruel and should be banned.
Broiler Hens – Meat
These are the hens you get in your fast food outlets as well as the birds you buy as dinner in shops. This can a whole chicken or meals featuring chicken pieces. The chances are, if you buy your chicken from supermarkets, these may be what you are eating. Mass farmed and genetically bred to be fat and put weight on quickly, these poor birds have an astoundingly short life rife with health problems. Their legs have not adapted to withhold the weight of their bodies so they can’t walk far and their legs have a tendency to break under the pressure. They suffer weakened hips due to their size and rapid weight gain which can leave them in pain and unable to move. They also have heart problems as a result of being over weight. These birds tend to not live past the age of one to one and a half years old. They’re malnourished, fed only a diet of fatty foods to fatten them up and have pale shrunken combs which shows they are unhealthy. Their deaths can also cruel. Taken from tiny transport cages, they are often hung by their legs and electrocuted before being bled to death.
Rescuing and Re-homing
These birds may have lived nasty lives but some farms are now giving away these birds once their farming potential has reached its end, particularly battery hens or broilers which do not fulfil commercial requirements. Rather then sending them to the slaughter-house to be processed into tinned animal feed, rescue sanctuaries, such as Little Hen Rescue, in Norwich Norfolk, are collecting them and giving them a safe place to live out the rest of their days in freedom. My family has rescued a number of hens from LHR and we have taken great pleasure in having them in our lives. Often re-homed just one day after being freed from the cages, you watch over time as these friendly, inquisitive and fun birds grow new feathers, fill out and the colours return to their faces and combs. You watch them take their first steps at the age of two, you can see them peering at the grass in wonder and are constantly amazed at how well they come on and how their natural instincts kick in. Having spent all of their lives in a cage, ours suddenly decided they wanted to nest and lay eggs in the hedges rather than the coop! The downside is that these birds have a shortened life expectancy, as well as egg production, due to the intensity of the caged farming. Some may also have health problems such as egg peritonitis, limps or broken wings from old injuries sustained in the farm. Don’t let this out you off, they are such fantastic pets. Not only do you give these birds a happy end to their otherwise unhappy lives, you also get free eggs from hens you know are happy and know what they have been fed! You will never want to eat chicken again!
~Images sources for caged hens: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28071427@N07
~Image source for broilers: http://www.flickr.com/photos/farmsanctuary1/
~Images for healthy hens are my own