Have you even thought about it?

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BY: Kirsten Butters

While many people are having conversations about equality between humans, I always wonder if their thoughts extend to our beautiful little friends: chickens.

Most people might think, “Chicken? Yum.”


But chickens provide something better than meat: EGGS.

I know some vegans will argue against eggs as it comes from an animal but here’s the thing, chickens lay eggs nearly every day, rooster or not. It is natural behaviour for chickens to lay eggs, we don’t force them to (except barn hens).

eggs at the supermarket
Kirsten (right).

Sometimes an egg is just an egg (it hasn’t been fertilised), especially when you buy them at the grocery store (as chicken farmers have no need for fertilised eggs).

Now onto the grocery stores where you buys the eggs (the super important part):

Cage production and cage free

Caged chickens are kept in wire cages around the size of an iPad. Chickens can lose toes on these cages, and they have no room to stretch, walk or spread their wings.

If you’re thinking right now, “I buy eggs that are cage free so they’re happy chickens,” think again.

Cage free chickens are not kept in cages, but they are still held in an overcrowded barn.

In this barn, a farmer will turn the lights on to get the chickens to lay every six hours, or so. Chickens are only supposed to lay one egg a day!

So by laying three eggs a day, it shortens their already sad life.

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These chickens – cage free or not – don’t get to see the sunshine or grass from the time they start laying until they retire. These chickens are retired (sometimes rescued, but sometimes killed) at 14 months old, having laid eggs at least half of that.

Now for some good news, somewhat.

If these chickens are rescued they can end up in wonderful homes; like with me. This is where they get the sunshine, grass, freedom and a loving family.

Sadly, this time is short because they have lived beyond their years. Many rescued hens live less than a year!

Free range

Free range is only 15% of the egg industry in Australia, yet it is far more humane.

The chickens have enclosed areas which house their food, water and safe place to roost at night. Attached to their enclosed area is their yard to roam.

Sounds good, right?

eggs at the supermarket
What about free range chickens?

Yes, the hens get space to roam!

But, free range chickens must not come into contact with other animals to avoid getting sick. That’s fair but is also part of the reason it is more expensive to house free range hens.

The land required to raise free range hens also increases the cost of the eggs.

Coles has a policy of 10,000 hens per hectare (that’s extreme). So, that’s one hen per square metre.

THIS is why Free Range eggs cost more money

I recommend if you live near someone with pet chickens to buy from them, as these chickens will have a quality of life not described above.

My chickens, in particular, love to tear up my garden and chase the ducks around.

These are happy chickens.

Please note that this entire article has only been about egg production. There is still plenty more to write about meat chickens and the conditions for roosters.

But: please think a little next time you purchase eggs.

Kirsten Butters is the 2016 Youth Member for Nanango.

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