• Posted on April 11, 2013 8:54 pm
    By Chris
    Free Range Chicken

    Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Best Chicken Food

    When you sit down to christmas dinner or your sunday roast have you ever wondered where the chicken or turkey your are eating has come from? Personally I used to, though now I find myself unconsciously naming the bones and muscles of the bird (why I don’t like eating meat of the bone). I believe there is a big divide between food production and people’s meals brought together in part through the growth of giant supermarkets and the decline of local butchers. I think today is a good time to remember that this processed chicken wing dinner…

    Processed chicken wing dinner

    Actually comes from chickens like this…

    Free Range ChickenWell maybe not exactly like this as they are likely to be factory farmed in a broiler unit which is a massive shed where thousands of chickens are grown to weight before they are slaughtered for food. One of my biggest shocks today was the revelation that chickens actually moult – this means they lose their feathers which are then replaced when they grow new ones. As the hen stops laying during this time many chicken units will only keep them until their first moult before they then are either re-homed or go for slaughter.

    Previously I had been really against factory farming of chickens as all the “rescue” pictures I’d seen showed chickens looking really bald with feathers falling out all over the place. Realising that this is part of the natural life cycle for chickens I do now question whether using such images is morally right when seeking donations from uneducated people…

    At the moment I am left undecided on what production method I support for poultry as they both have advantages and disadvantages. With the number of eggs that humans consume the manpower and space needed for a free range system would be astronomical. We are visiting a chicken production farm next Thursday so hopefully this will help me make a decision.

    Posted in categories: Vet School Diary
  1. Holly

    Hi Chris, this is a ridiculous comparison . We have rescued ex batt hens, and the conditions they are arrive in , can not be compared to a chicken simply moulting . The birds we rescue are in conditions I have never seen free range chickens in , and to question the ethics of advertising such pictures, because you’ve discovered hens moult is ludicrous. Yes hens moult- but this is a completely seperate issue . We have rescued ex battery hens, and also raised our own hens – the difference is phenomenal , moulting or not . It’s sometimes too easy to justify cruelty with a simple finding. As Chantelle Mentioned, when chickens moult , they do not tend to end up in a state as pictured from those on battery farms.

    1. Chris

      Hi Holly,

      I’m curious to learn more as my chicken knowledge was until recently pretty basic – as you say its a complex area. Being in Slovakia I am slightly restricted in actually getting out to see things for myself with the language barrier.

      I’m curious as to whether you got your rescue ex-batt hens before or after the new “enchriched” cages legislation came into force – and if you have both before and after whether there was any difference in their condition.


  2. Chantelle

    Hi Chris. We’ve had 4 ex-bats, as they’re called. They all came with scraggy necks where the feathers had been pecked off. Feathers now grown back (took about a year) moulting is normal but it’s usually even not resulting in uneven or bald patches. Our demand for cheap food and more more more forces the factory farming of animals. And the slave labour of humans too. Greed.
    Apparently ex-bats are all about 9months old when they are ‘replaced’ still fantastic layers we now have two ex-bats (aged2yrs) and two brahmas (aged 4yrs) all going strong and still laying about 8 eggs a week between them.

    1. Chris

      Hi Chantelle,

      Depending when and where you got them and as it is the neck area it may not have moulting but trauma from the bars of the cages they were kept in. The EU has made some steps in the right direction now with what they call “enriched” cages which are bigger, give a space for privacy, and a bar for perching. Something crucial which I think is often overlooked are the staff that work with them, the farm I visited a couple of weeks ago they had actually enriched the enriched cages with lighting and cover over the food area etc.

      That is correct, they are replaced before their first moulting as its uneconomical to feed them through the moulting period, there is nothing wrong with them it is just money. However in a production setting they are expected to produce around 6 eggs a week each. Over here I know that buying large eggs direct from the farm costs 11 cents each, and from tesco a box of 6 eggs costs 1.8+ euros. Once again looking at the economics, the major money is going to multinational supermarkets in return for the convenience of shopping in one place. If supermarkets paid more then in a lot of cases it would have a direct impact on animal welfare of hens.


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