Why We Don’t Buy Free Range Eggs

When we post photos of our rescued battery hens on Facebook, one of the comments we always get is “This is why I only buy free range eggs.” Even though we are grateful people are trying to make kind choices, they’re making decisions based on incorrect information. It’s time to expose the truth about egg farms.

Where do all the male chicks go?

50% of all chicks hatched for eggs are male. Hatcheries breed chicks by the millions to supply egg farms. The eggs are hatched in incubators and once hatched the chicks are put onto a conveyor belt just as if they were a non-feeling plastic toy, rather than a living, feeling animal. Workers sort the chicks into male and female. Since the boys are not suitable for meat and can’t lay, they are deemed useless and are killed. The babies are either thrown into an industrial grinder where they will literally be ground up alive or tossed into large bin bags where they will either suffocate or be crushed to death.

The female chicks who survive go on to be debeaked and enter the layer industry. Organic farms do not debeak, but many barn and free range farms do. Debeaking is incredibly painful and can cause some chicks to die from stress.

Due to the large number of hens in “free range” farms, very few actually get to roam outside. Since there is often very limited shelter the hens do not feel safe from predators and are unlikely to venture out.If you buy free range eggs you are far more likely to be supporting a farm that keeps around 20,000 hens in barns.

Often hens are so packed into these facilities that they will have to crawl over each other to move around. We have rescued hens who have been extremely traumatised by their time in the barn and who are in a terrible state when they get out.

What happens to the hens when their egg production wanes, or they stop laying?

What about if you know of that rare farmer who actually keeps their hens in true free range conditions? Of course it is better that hens are kept like this, but they will still all end up at the slaughterhouse.

At between 18-24 months the hens are past their prime and will no longer be profitable to the farmer. This is when they will be sent to slaughter. The farmer will usually withhold food and water for 4 days before slaughter as it is not financially beneficial to continue feeding them.

On the day of slaughter, workers (catchers) will grab the hens by their legs or wings and throw them into crates to take to slaughter. The hens are often calcium deficient and their bones are brittle. It is common for hens to suffer broken bones during this process. The terrified hens often vomit as they are held upside down. You can hear the hens screaming during a clear out from a long way away.

The hens are packed into crates and loaded onto a truck so that they can be hauled to slaughter. Often the girls have never been outside before and they are terrified. They are exposed to the elements and may travel up to 12 hours without food or water.

Slaughter workers tip the hens out of crates and grab them by their leg or wing. The hens are shackled, upside down, into leg holds that hang from a conveyor chain. The conveyor chain starts moving and the terrified hen is swung around towards an electric bath, which is designed to stun her. If the hen lifts her head whilst going over the bath she can miss it and go to the motorised blades fully conscious! The blades are designed to slit her throat, but flapping and wildly trying to escape death means that there are times when hens are able to dodge the blades. Due to the speed of the line the back up killer can also miss hens. This means there will be times when a hen will enter the boiling hot water of the scalding tank conscious.

Eating Rescued Hens’ Eggs

Sometimes people wonder why I choose not to eat any eggs from the rescued battery hens. Other than the fact that I have been vegan for years and have no desire to eat eggs, I would rather the eggs were fed back to the hens to help build them up. Layer hens have been bred to lay an unnatural amount of eggs and this takes it’s toll on their bodies. By feeding eggs back to the hens they can get back some of the nutrients they have lost. Once an egg is cracked the hens know there is no chick inside and will happily chow down.

We encourage adopters to feed back some of the eggs to the hens. After what they have been through it is the very least we can do.

Living Kind

The truth is you cannot buy any humane eggs. Even buying backyard hens means you will be funding a hatchery or breeder who kills male chicks. The good news is there is a very easy way to get around this – stop funding it. If you wouldn’t treat animals this way, don’t pay for someone else to do it for you.

There have been huge leaps in the range of vegan foods available – from vegan cheese, magnum ice-creams, and mock meats you can enjoy very similar food with a clean conscience.

Take the Vegan Easy Challenge, sign up for Veganuary or No-Meat May – you can find plenty of wholesome and delicious recipes on each website. Check out our awesome egg-alternatives here.

Watch Dominion, Earthlings, Cowspiracy (available on Netflix) and What The Health (available on Netflix) and The Game Changers (available on Netflix).