Why You Should Care About Chickens
The life of a chicken raised for their flesh
Discover the difference between the life of chickens farmed for their flesh versus chickens living free by using the slider on the image above.
Cruelty in the Chicken Flesh Industry
Like chickens exploited for their eggs, chickens raised for their flesh are hatched in artificial incubators. These birds are Cornish crosses. Both male and female chicks are raised to slaughter weight.
In the United States, nearly 9 billion chicks are slaughtered for consumption.
Unlivable: Chicks Housed in Poor Conditions
The chicks arrive at commercial barns that bear a resemblance to warehouses. These crowded, windowless sheds can house thousands of chickens. Because it is impossible to clean the sheds with crowds of chickens inside them, the stench of ammonia and feces quickly becomes unbearable.
Most birds are routinely fed antimicrobial-laced food to improve their growth rate. Unfortunately, the misuse of antimicrobials, like antibiotics, leads to antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains in humans and nonhumans.
Fast Growth, Big Problems: Cruelty for Profit
Cornish cross chickens (called “broilers” by the meat industry) are selectively bred to grow at an extreme pace. Chickens are slaughtered between 5-7 weeks of age, with an average slaughter age of 47 days. In 1955, the typical slaughter age for a chicken was 70 days old.
Growth at an accelerated pace causes many health issues in modern chickens. Leg and foot issues, heart problems, and a tendency to overheat are some of the problems.
No Protection: Chickens Excluded from Most Laws
A chicken’s brief life leads to the slaughterhouse. For many, the day they are packed tightly into transport crates is the first and last time they will ever see outside. The journey to slaughter is highly stressful. Unfortunately, there are no regulations restricting “livestock” transportation. As a result, birds often face harsh conditions on exposed, open-air semi-trucks.
The Federal U.S. Humane Slaughter Act mandates that mammals be stunned before having their throats slit. However, this law excludes birds and rabbits.
Chickens are hung upside-down in shackles for slaughter. Some slaughterhouses use an electrical water-bath stun system before slaughter. But it is not a legal requirement. As a result, birds may still have their throats slit while fully conscious.
The life of a chicken raised for their eggs
Discover the difference between the life of chickens farmed for their eggs versus chickens living free by using the slider on the image above.
Cruelty in Egg Industry
Did you know that chickens are killed for egg production? Yet, many consumers falsely believe that egg farms are slaughter-free.
Chicks are hatched in artificial incubators. Normally hens speak to their chicks prior to hatching. This important bond develops so that a chick immediately recognizes their mother’s voice if they hatch when she is not present. A mother should be waiting to teach the tiny baby birds everything they need to know about the world. Instead, the confused chicks encounter fast-moving machinery, gloved hands, and cruel treatment.
The first process that chicks undergo is “sexing.” Hatchery workers quickly determine the sex of the chicks, which will be the deciding factor in a life of misery or immediate death.
Males Killed at Hatching
Breeds used to produce eggs are bred to lay large quantities of eggs, not to grow large at a fast pace. The majority of male chicks, unable to lay eggs, are killed on their first day of life. The most common method is maceration, where chicks are ground up alive. Other methods include gassing or suffocation.
Nearly 300 million day-old chicks meet their fate this way every year.
Painful Beak Trimming: Female Chicks’ Cruel Fate
Debeaking is a standard practice where workers sever the tips of their beaks with a hot iron blade or infrared laser. This painful mutilation prevents birds from injuring one another on overcrowded, unnatural farms.
Debeaking can cause chronic pain due to tissue and nerve damage. In addition, severely debeaked hens often struggle to eat.
Winged Imprisonment: Hens Confined to Tiny Cages
Young hens find themselves in a horrendous situation on egg farms.
65% of hens used for egg production are kept in cages so small they cannot spread their wings. No laws stipulate how much space birds must be given to increase welfare, except in a few states. The United Egg Producers mandates that hens have 67-86 square inches of space in cages. To put things in perspective, the average iPad is just over 62 square inches in diameter, giving them barely enough room to stand upright, let alone move around or spread her wings.
Wire-bottom battery cages catch toes and overgrown nails, causing painful injuries. In addition, many of these hens suffer from necrotic tissue, infections from untreated injuries, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis.
In 2022, an estimated 65% of eggs in the United States came from battery cage systems.
34% of hens raised for egg production are confined in cage-free systems. Free-range and cage-free systems are not necessarily better for animal wellbeing. All birds hatched in this industry start their lives as outlined above. Hens raised cage-free are not confined in cages but are often raised in industrial sheds. The amount of space per bird on cage-free farms is slightly larger at 1-1.5 square feet of space. The operations are still overcrowded.
Free-range systems in the United States stipulate some “access to the outdoors.” However, profit-driven loopholes mean outdoor access is often limited to a single, dismal run of any size. For example, a shed with tens of thousands of chickens may have a small outdoor yard for a handful of hens to stand in at a time.
Profit Over Life: Hens Killed at Young Age
At 18-mos-old, egg production declines. Farmers often induce a molt (replacement of all feathers) to extend productive life to a little over two years. “Spent” hens are then caught, crammed into transport cages, and shipped to slaughter. In some states, like California, most commercially reared hens are gassed onsite and their bodies dumped in landfills.
Chickens are not considered “livestock” and are excluded from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the 28-Hour Transport Law. This means they do not need to be rendered unconscious prior to having their throats slit.
Whether caged, free-range, cage-free or pasture-raised, all hens are killed when their laying production declines.
Animal Place kindly asks you to eliminate eggs from your diet. Fortunately, new alternatives are released constantly. So ditch eggs. The chickens will thank you!