Many people think that free range eggs come from hens that spend their days happily outside, scratching around in the dirt and sunbathing. The reality is that many free range hens never see daylight. They are kept with thousands of other birds, in huge sheds, usually under artificial lights, to help increase the number of eggs laid.
Whilst free range might mean cage free, as many as nine birds can live in one square metre. There are no also laws to stop hens being stacked in tiers.
Battery and ‘enriched’ cages
Battery cages were banned in the UK several years ago and were replaced with enrichment cages. These cages only provide the same space as the size of an A4 piece of paper per hen. Battery farms exist across the world, and the majority of egg-laying hens in the US are battery, despite bans in some states.
Male chicks have no value in the egg industry, whether that be on free range or factory farms. Male birds cannot produce eggs and are not suitable for meat for human consumption. They are almost always killed immediately after hatching. They are either thrown into an industrial grinder (macerator) while still alive or gassed to death, the preferred method in the UK.
Are there alternatives to killing male chicks?
Technologies such as hormone level analysis of egg fluid, the use of spectrophotometry or cameras, and fluorescence microscopy have all demonstrated sex determination of eggs is possible. Sex determination of eggs during the first few days of incubation allows for sexing prior to the embryo developing a sensory nervous system and potential pain perception.
Once egg sexing has occurred, male chick eggs can be removed from incubation and used for other purposes such as processing into animal feed or utilised in laboratories. These emerging technologies are providing commercially viable alternatives to male chick culling. Continual research and innovation in this area will ensure male chick culling can be phased out without delay.
What is the impact of factory farming and egg laying on hens?
Hens are intelligent, sensitive and social creatures. However, they are not able to live their lives naturally as hens should on factory farms or in free range farms that use vase barns as housing. They are unable to dust bathe, build a nest, feed or forage properly. The hens suffer physically and mentally – broken bones, tumours and stress. There have been many times when Lucky Hens has rescued hens and some have died in our arms on the day they are rescued; their little bodies unable to endure any more.
Billions of egg-laying hens are killed every year and are treated as commodities Keeping rescued egg-laying hens in your backyard is one way to help. Lucky Hens is firmly against all supermarket bought eggs, regardless of how the hens have been kept; the hens will still be slaughtered at 72 weeks old and all male chicks will be killed.