If you have had the experience of keeping chickens in your backyard, you will know how delightful these animals can be. They have their own personalities and character traits, but more importantly they are extremely beneficial in contributing to your gardens ecosystem, by providing manure, turning over the soil and keeping pests and weeds under control.
There are four different types of eggs available to purchase, they are organic, free-range, barn laid and cage eggs. Organic eggs that are laid, allow the chickens to roam outside and are not treated with antibiotics and no in-organic substances are added to their food. Free-range chickens also have access to outside spaces, but in some cases can be given antibiotics to protect them from infectious disease. Barn laid hens are kept in large container sheds, and have minimal space to move around and are often provided bales of hay to perch upon.
Caged hens are part of a system that is referred to as factory farming and this name comes from the need to see livestock’s functions or units, rather than individual living entities and they place them in industrial conditions that solely focus on cost saving, with no concern for the needs of the animal as opposed to other methods of housing which try to meet all the natural needs of the humble chicken. So here is my suggestion as to why you should avoid cage eggs and consider choosing organic or free-range as better options; I appologise for the graphic nature of this blog post, but it does need to shared so we can make an informed choice.
- Space Chickens that produce caged eggs are kept in confined cages and within that space the hen has no more than the size of an A4 sheet of paper and lives in this space with several other chickens.
- Unnatural Caged hens do not get to express their natural behaviours and at best barely have room to flap their wings, the hens stand on wire with no material in which to scratch upon. They are unable to perch or nest, they cannot hide or dust bath, they cannot walk anywhere. The caged hen has significant mental and physical distress with feather loss, foot problems and brittle bones, not to mention they present with aggression and pecking behaviours and often eat their own.
- Debeaking The hens are debeaked to prevent damage to other birds in confined spaces, but this doesn’t stop the aggression, the theory is that is will prevent them from injuring or killing other hens, and this is done when they are chicks (babies) by cutting or burning off their beaks.
- Male Chicks All male chicks have no economic value in a system that is devoted to egg production and they are immediately euthanised. And to make matters even more disturbing the male chicks are either gassed or put through a grinder.
- Nutrition The food a caged hen receives is at best grain feed only, so the basic nutritional need is met. Chickens, just like us need a balanced diet, one that compliments the grain they are fed, like food scraps, comprising of fruit and veggies and left over meat scraps, which is additional to the insects and bugs they scratch up in the garden, mix this with plant cuttings and weeds and you have a well balanced diet for chickens. Caged hens have no access to any of these and are only fed in-organic food which is laced with antibiotics and anti-bacterial agents to prevent disease, but more importantly these enter the food chain which you ingest.
- Faeces Eggs are not the only avenue where antibiotics end up in the food chain, because hens cannot metabolise all the antibiotics, some end up in their faeces and this manure is then used as fertiliser for crops from where they leach into waterways as well. But just to add more stress the faeces typically drop through to cages below which fall onto the chickens housed there causing burning due to the ammonia contained in it.
- Produce The cage egg system is not only unhealthy for the hens, plus cruel, the eggs from it that we consume are less healthy than the alternatives you can buy. Because caged hens cannot eat a range of foods to meet their nutritional needs, means the eggs you are eating have fewer nutrients than the organic and free-range options available and these include low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin E.
I am not going to lie, no matter how many times I hear about this industry, I am extremely uncomfortable with the fact that as consumers we are kept in the dark about the food we buy. For years I have heard horrific stories about the livestock industry and I am not opposed to those who choose to eat meat or buy cage eggs, and I understand this is a farmers livelihood. It’s cheaper i get it, but let’s pause for a minute and acknowledge that whilst we continue to buy cage eggs we support an industry and is cruel and in-humane. My hope is that we begin to shift the awareness around the industry and make better choices not just for our own health but for those of our feathered friends.