We got three new additions to the menagerie today: Po, Phasma and Penguin. They are ex-battery chickens who had reached the end of their useful life so were due to become cat or dog food. Poor little buggers only stopped laying for a brief period as the moult but, any pause in egg production and they’re outta there!
What a rotten life they’ve had. Like most egg-producing birds, they were hatched out among thousands of other chicks who were then sexed and sorted. The boys immediately went off to be gassed or thrown live into a mincer (“Nice life?”, “Was that it?”, “Yeah, bit short, wasn’t it?”). The girls were the “lucky” ones who got to have their beaks clipped before living their days out in a cage with the floor space of an A4 piece of paper. Then, about a year later, the moult begins and, before they know it, they are coming out of the arse end of a dog.
I didn’t know this. Sure, I knew the battery system and figured it to be pretty unpleasant, but I had never ever wondered what happened to the boys and it never occurred to me just how short the lives of the girls are. I guess it probably wouldn’t be in the best interest of egg producers to mention that on their egg boxes. You know, those ones that put little dreamy scenes of a happy chicken in a field just casually laying the odd egg… Yeah, right! Most of the free-rangers start and end in the same way and the space they allocate for them isn’t quite the huge luxury penthouse those boxes would mislead you into believing.
But I am not here to lecture. I was one of the many millions – billions – of people who enjoyed scoffing eggs. I still do if any of the ducks happen to lay any. I just wish I had known exactly what was involved so I could make an informed choice. Information. It is that which is seriously lacking in our food production.
I don’t have a problem if somebody wants to eat meat. It took me 44 years to decide not to, so I am the last person to lecture. But my decision was expedited once I understood how the animals I was to consume were treated prior to ending up in my tummy. I liked to kid myself that they had an awesome life, right up until the instant they were killed, which was so fast they didn’t even have a breath to get scared in. Sadly, that isn’t the case.
The briefest of research into food production will bring up the kinds of horror stories that future generations will look back upon with disbelief. In the same way we wonder how on earth human beings could have eviscerated eachother in such gruesome fashion, humans from the future will watch films of us essentially torturing animals for our own gain.
Sad but true.
Anyway, the three below are the chickens that won the lottery. So far www.homes4hens.co.uk have rescued tens of thousands of chickens, but they can only rescue as many as they can re-house. So, if you have a bit of space to give, why not get in touch with them?