The Problems with Backyard Chickens
Are you thinking about keeping backyard chickens in order to have a supply of eggs? You may want to think again. Unfortunately, there are many reasons why backyard chickens are problematic.
Backyard Chicken Eggs are Cruel (1)
Most hens come from industrial hatcheries. Because there is no money in male chicks, they are killed as soon as they are born. Usually ground up, gassed or suffocated. If you buy from one of these hatcheries, you are supporting this practice. No matter how well you treat them, they are a product of severe cruelty.
Most chicks from hatcheries are shipped through the postal service in a dark, crowded box, deprived of food and water for 72 hours or more.
We often hear “but my chickens came from my neighbor”. Regardless, somewhere along the line you are supporting hatcheries, which are among the cruelest industries on the planet.
Chickens in the wild lay 10 to 15 eggs per YEAR. By contrast, egg laying chickens of today have been bred to lay 250 to 300 eggs per year. This would be similar to a human being bred to menstruate every few days. This takes a tremendous toll on the bodies of these birds. Keeping chickens in your backyard doesn’t eliminate this suffering.
Death and disease resulting from being bred to lay so many eggs include:
- Fatty liver syndrome – where the liver accumulates extra fat and becomes prone to hemorrhaging
- They become egg bound, where their bodies grow too weak to pass eggs
- Prolapsed uteruses where eggs stick to the lining of the uterus and pull it out when it passes
- Osteoporosis due to calcium depletion from producing so many eggs
Chickens in the wild live 30+ years. Chickens bred to lay eggs live roughly 8 years.
When people who own backyard chickens approach me and say they are treated well. I always ask a few questions:
1. Where are your roosters? About 50% of all chickens born are male, yet since there no homes for the roosters, they are typically killed or discarded. If someone owns backyard chickens and doesn’t have an equal amount of males and females, they are causing death and suffering.
2. What will you do with them when their egg production declines? Most people don’t realize that egg production will fall off long before they die naturally and people are not prepared or equipped to care for dozens of extra chickens who don’t lay eggs in the future (most of the time those chickens find their way to an early death because they are discarded)
In addition to these other ethical problems, owning backyard chickens for their eggs plays into the mindset that these chickens and their ovulations are ours to use as we wish, disregarding bodily autonomy. As is the case with all the other forms of animal use, any time we treat an animal as a product and assign value to what it can produce for us (food, money, etc.) we are placing our interests above theirs. This always results in some form of cruelty. Promoting the idea that their eggs are ours to eat or their bodies and reproductive systems are ours to exploit, directly places our interests in the way of theirs.
Eggs Are Not Healthy (2)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not allow the egg industry to advertise eggs as healthy or nutritious. In fact, the opposite is true.
- One egg has the same amount of cholesterol as a Big Mac.
- 60% of the calories in an egg are from fat
- Eating eggs can increase the risk of
- Cardiovascular disease by 19%
- Colon cancer by 5 times
- Type 2 diabetes by 68%
- Lethal prostate cancer by 81%
Whether the eggs come from a factory farm or your backyard, the health issues are the same.
It Isn’t Cheap or Easy
Aside from the ethical dilemma of keeping chickens, people should understand that it isn’t even necessarily cheaper and it certainly is a lot of work.
Chicken coops need to be cleaned daily. Yards, food, water bowls and bedding also need to be maintained. Add the man hours involved to the costs of building the coop, buying the feed and paying the vet and you could end up spending $40 or more for a dozen eggs. (3)
Hens taper off egg laying once they reach age 2, but will live to be 8 to 10 years old. Chickens can be lovely pets, and once they have stopped laying eggs, that’s all they will be.
Because there is food around, backyard chickens will attract predators and pests such as snakes, raccoons, opossums, coyotes and rats. Don’t underestimate rats. Rats will turn up where they’ve never been before because food is available. If these animals don’t harm your chickens, they will definitely alter the landscape of your backyard.
Please Consider Replacing Eggs with Cruelty Free Alternatives
Chickens are emotional, intelligent animals with their own interests and personalities. Eating eggs supports an industry that commodifies these beautiful birds and robs them of natural lives. If you are considering owning backyard chickens, explore the reasons why. If you are truly doing this for ethical reasons because you oppose factory farms, I challenge you to consider the ethics of owning them at all versus simply finding alternatives.
Here are a few resources to get you started. Please contact us at any time if you have questions and we will be happy to help.
The VeganEgg (Now available in many large grocery store chains)
13 vegan breakfasts better than McDonalds (not strictly about eggs, but some delicious ways to replace your normal breakfast with cruelty free alternatives)
Homemade Vegan Eggz by The Gentle Chef (Definitely requires cooking skills, but worth it!)