So after googling until I thought I’d go cross-eyed, I found that other than growing their own veggies, a lot of people were also choosing to raise their own hens because apparently the process that the eggs we buy go through isn’t exactly the greatest. … Shocker!
What I found was disturbing to say the very least … if you don’t want to know, then you might want to skip to the end of this where I’ll be sharing why backyard eggs are healthier.
In the United States, an estimated 95 percent of egg-laying hens (that’s about 445 million) are intensively confined in battery cages. (These are illegal in Europe by the way.) Industry guidelines specify a minimum of 67 square inches per hen (this is an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper), allowing each of these cages to confine five or six birds on average, but sometimes up to 10 birds.
Like any animal, chickens are highly motivated to perform natural behaviors. These behaviors include nesting, perching, scratching, foraging, dust-bathing, exploring and stretching. Caged chickens are denied all of these natural behaviors, causing them severe frustration.
Battery hens suffer from serious health problems, such as respiratory disease from constant exposure to ammonia fumes and fecal dust; osteoporosis, bone fractures, and prolapsed uteruses from being bred to lay eggs at an unnaturally high rate; and foot disorders, sores and injuries from contact with the cage wire in outdated cage systems.
As a response to the lack of foraging opportunities in the barren cage environment, chickens sometimes engage in feather-pecking of their cagemates. So, before they are 10 days old, the ends of their beaks are seared off with hot blades and, as I am sure you could have guessed, beak mutilation causes acute and sometimes chronic pain.
Because of the filthy conditions, these hens are exposed to, toxic ammonia that rises from the decomposing uric acid in the manure pits beneath the cages causes ammonia-burned eyes and chronic respiratory disease in millions of hens. Studies of the effect of ammonia on eggs suggest that even at low concentrations, significant quantities of ammonia can be absorbed into the egg.
Hens that need to be used for another laying period are forced to molt to reduce the accumulated fat in the reproductive systems and regulate prices by forcing the hens to stop laying for a couple of months. In the forced molt, producers starve the hens for four to 14 days causing them to lose 25 to 30 percent of their body weight along with their feathers. Water deprivation, drugs such as chlormadinone, and harsh light and blackout schedules can be part of this brutal treatment.
Thanks to the crowded confinement, hens are given antibiotics to control the rampant viral and bacterial diseases. But that’s not a problem because the antibiotics can also be used to manipulate egg production. For example, virginiamycin is said to increase feed conversion per egg laid, bacitracin to stimulate egg production, and oxytetracycline to improve eggshell quality.
Chickens are confined for about a year and a half before their ability to lay eggs declines.
After their egg production declines, they are killed.
Now for some good news …
Backyard chickens do not ever have to deal with any of that!!
And in return, they give us eggs that have
– 1/3 less cholesterol
– 1/4 less saturated fat
– 2/3 more vitamin A
– 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
– 3 times more vitamin E
– 7 times more beta-carotene
Be honest, which one would you rather eat?
After making the most obvious decision about our next step to eating more organically and after about a year of researching how to raise backyard chickens, our journey is just weeks away from getting our first egg! We can not wait!
Guest Post by Capper’s Farmer Michelle R.
I am told all the time that it costs too much to eat healthily, so I am on a mission to see how many of my family’s favorites I can recreate without all the chemicals that we can’t pronounce. Join me and my family as we embark on our backyard farming adventure, learn how to eat more healthful while staying within our budget, and attempt to find some simple pleasures in this technologically advanced world. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.