Spring in the Garden

Spring in the Garden

Monday, 23 February 2009

A very good reason for buying free range eggs and chickens

The Garden Small Holder has just rescued another batch of ex-battery hens, which is very good of her. The picture of these abused creatures is quite horrific. This is what a year or so of being kept in an egg-producing battery farm does to chickens, yet very often, proper living conditions and a good diet can allow these birds to grow their feathers back and lead a fairly decent life. To my mind it is criminal that the birds are allowed to be treated this way in the first place. If you treated your pet cat or dog, and probably your budgie, like this you would be prosecuted, so why is it legal to treat chickens so cruelly?

However, I'm not sure I would be willing to take on the extra stress that nursing these poor birds back to health involves. Looking after our healthy birds is quite a steep enough learning curve at the moment. I would imagine that after such an awful life their immune system must be weakened and the birds are more likely to be prone to disease, which is what seems to have been the case for these birds. It certainly doesn't strike me as the best way to start out keeping hens, but perhaps it would be a bit easier for an experienced poultry keeper who has some idea what is normal for healthy chickens.

This highlights for me the importance of Hugh Fearnley-Wittenstall's Chicken Out Campaign and the need to bring an end to battery hens and chickens raised in over-crowded and unnatural conditions. The campaign is now concentrating on the way chickens are bred for the table as so many supermarkets have said they will only stock free-range eggs, so one wonders why so many battery hens are still being kept and what happens to their eggs.

I've been buying free-range eggs and chickens for years, but it occured to me (indeed I believe I read it somewhere) that many products containing egg will contain eggs from battery hens if it is not stated that the eggs are free range, so perhaps we need to keep an eye out for that, too. It does make shopping a bit more complicated, but it's something we can do to reduce the number of hens who have to be tortured because we who live in a country where obesity is becoming a serious problem have been willing to let them suffer so we can have cheap food.


  1. Our very first chickens were ex battery hens. We were all set to buy POL birds until we saw an ad asking for homes for ex battery hens. We collected our first girls in April 2008, now our second lot in February 2009. I guess we are still novice chicken keepers, but keeping ex battery hens certainly makes your knowledge of chickens grow at a faster rate.

    Battery hens believe it or not can be quite tolerant to disease as they are vaccinated as chicks. Any breed of hen can suffer from egg related problems as they get older, ex batts tend to suffer from egg related problems due to being so burnt out from intensive farming and certain breeding - but not all of them will go on to develop problems.

    I totally understand that keeping ex battery hens will not appeal to everyone, but, just by changing shopping habits, everyone can help these poor birds. Battery eggs are present in many foods such as baby foods, pies, ice cream, quiche etc.

    I urge everyone to check the labels and ask if your not sure. Obviously, please avoid eggs from caged hens. A few supermarkets have stripped them from their shelves already, but they are still in high demand unil the balance is addressed and the cost of free range comes down.

    Phew! Sorry gone on a bit there. Thanks for linking to us on your post. We will keep the blog updated with the new girls progress.

  2. Yes, I can imagine you've been on a very steep learning curve. I'm finding our learning curve quite steep enough at the moment, though. I'm sure the chickens appreciate what you are doing for them. Even after just over a week I'm finding chickens are more intelligent than I would have thought.

    Having seen the state of your new birds I think you can be forgiven for going on a bit, but I would say you've made some very good points that need to be made as often as possible. People need to understand the unreasonable price of cheap eggs.


I look forward to reading your comments, it's always good to hear encouraging words or relevant hints and tips.