Cage-Free Eggs: Transitioning to a New Environment

| 10/22/2010 10:35:31 AM

Tags: chickens, eggs,

cage-free pullets 

In 1909, the average hen in the United States laid 83 eggs a year. Modern, commercial hybrid hens lay 300 to 320 eggs a year, and they consume less feed. But there are additional costs.

A recent article, Breeding to Prevent Cannibalism in Hens, says, “Decades of breeding to make the white leghorn hens that lay most of the nation’s eggs more productive have also boosted the birds’ territorial instincts, making them prone to pecking attacks so fierce they’re often called ‘cannibalism.’” When these same high-production strains of chickens are in a cage-free environment (where they can have contact with many more birds), will there be more cannibalism? Probably, if they’re still closely confined in buildings — but that doesn’t mean keeping hens in cages is a better option. There are several rational techniques to raise healthy chickens that produce healthful food.

Raise Chickens in a Natural Environment 

A robotics engineer in England can predict which flocks of chickens are likely to become cannibalistic. Computer System Counters Hen Horrors credits Bas Rodenburg, an animal behavior and welfare researcher from the Netherlands, as saying, “It's really important to stimulate healthy foraging early on, because birds who can't forage the normal way — by pecking the ground in search of food — are likely to peck at other things instead, including their neighbors.”

Chickens don’t learn natural behaviors when flocks of thousands of chicks are housed in barns with controlled light, wire mesh or concrete under their feet, and no green forage. They must be raised in a more natural environment, preferably on pasture after they’ve grown past the brooding stage.

Holly Jones_4
10/29/2010 4:24:41 PM

I just read t. brandt's comment and thought I'd give a nannycrat opinion. Americans do NOT produce food right any more. The quality of readily available food is so low these days because food producers and consumers have been working to the bottom line. Consumer health, health care costs, pesticide, hormone and antibiotic pollution, worker safety are all affected. At the very bottom of this list let's put the dignity of a chicken. So. What dignity does a chicken have? None. You own it. You can kick it around, pull its feathers off, use it for sadistic entertainment, neglect to feed it. You can keep it indoors in a tiny cage, debeaked, unable to run or fly, feed it pesticides and hormones and antibiotics all its life. The second list of abuses will give you a better bottom line, I guess. Your children, exposed to either set of abuses, will learn to see animals and other people as mainly tools. They will become the users of tomorrow as you are one of the users of today. Today 80% of the "organic" market is corporate; your kids will have the satisfaction of increasing that number to 99%. I bet you support the NAIS. You should, you know.

t brandt
10/28/2010 9:15:00 PM

I keep a few chickens around the place mainly because they're so entertaining and they also happen to give me a few eggs every day too. But if you're going to raise them commercially, ie- actually make aliving at it, then you've got to go for productive efficiency. Why run a business at less than optimal conditions? And that means optimizing population density, among other things. The problem with "organic" is that it just doesn't give the higher yields necessary to feed the growing human population. BTW, Patrick- you're absolutely right. The govt screws everything up- we don't even fight wars properly anymore-and now the Nannycrats are trying to louse up the last thing Americans do right- produce food.

10/28/2010 7:27:00 AM

I'm confused Patrick 28, which are the "small truths" mixed with which "contrived falsehoods"? Is it the extremely over packed huge building in the video, or the tiny door for the chickens to exit the building? Or are the "contrived falsehoods" the fact that those corporations are allowed to sell the eggs produced under those conditions as organic. Is that how you produce your eggs? What is your definition of older breeds "need more space to prevent cannabilism"? Is it actually allowing them enough room to move? The only reason you can possibly be offended by the article and the video is if you see yourself, otherwise you would be telling us how it is to compete with those corporations. Is your comment the "outright lies" you are referring to?

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