For each little hen hatched, there is one little rooster hatched. Little rooster is useless for laying eggs. Unlike broilers he has slower muscle growth and thus is not economically worthy for meat either. His life has no economic importance. Therefore, he is killed on the first day after hatching. During a process called sexing, roosters are sorted by workers at the conveyor belt and subsequently killed by gas or in a grinder – precisely in the device with rapidly rotating blades. Just in the Czech Republic lives of about 4.5 million of little roosters end in this fashion. Each year.
Even the chickens, who are born as healthy hens, cannot expect much better fate. They are vaccinated and dispatched to farms where they are held for 4 to 6 months. In this period they have their beaks electrically cauterized without any anesthesia. Beaks are full of nerve endings, so it is a very painful procedure. After reaching the laying age hens are dispatched to laying sheds. In the vast majority these are so-called intensive farms (factory farms) where their everyday reality becomes a misery, pain and suffering in cages. This farming method is the cheapest and therefore the most common; however, for hens it is completely devastating. In order to increase egg production biorhythm manipulation is used – creating an “artificial day”. About 90% of factory farm hens languish in cages, less than 10% of hens languish on litter in the halls.
In 2012 a law of the European Union came into force prohibiting farming hens in so-called unenriched cages and introducing farming of laying hens in so-called enriched cages. Even in enriched cages each hen has assigned a space slightly larger than A4 size paper, where the hens cannot express their natural behavioral needs such as foraging, exercise, feather treatment, dust-bathing and nesting. Neither can their stretch their wings in there as they are literally crammed in these cages. Among the injuries, which hens in cages are suffering from, are mainly broken legs, wings and open wounds that cause painful infections.
In the litter farming the situation is often paradoxically even worse. Laying hens live by the thousands in the dark halls with a constant smell of ammonia, where one square meter of living space can be occupied by up to 9 hens. Their hierarchy is disrupted, leading to aggressive behavior and cannibalism. Even here hens do not catch a glimpse of daylight.
Hens in factory farms are bred to lay up to 340 eggs per year, which is up to 8 times more than the annual congeries of hens 100 years ago. All of the calcium from the hens’ body is used for the formation of the eggshells, hens suffer from exhaustion, frequent bone breaking and damaged cloaca. Many of them die right there in the cage and thus living birds are forced to live next to dead or dying ones. Despite that it is financially more rewarding for the farmer to withstand a little percentage of dead bodies than to improve the conditions or veterinary care. After 13 months, when hens are no longer able to withstand the high frequency of congeries, the sheds are cleaned up and hens are transported to the slaughterhouse.
Once there the hens are hung by their feet on the hook. Suspended upside down they will pass electrified water, which is supposed to stun them. However it can happen, and it does happen, that the hen raises her head while at the electrified water, therefore is not stunned, and her head is cut off mechanically or manually by the worker while fully conscious.
The life expectancy of hens outside of the industry farming is up to 10 years. They are intelligent beings who feel pain just like mammals do. Thus, even as much as we humans do.
Please think about it during your purchases. We have a choice; we have the possibility to confront the cruel treatment of animals, which is hidden behind the walls of slaughterhouses and factory farming.