This is Gemima. She is 2 years old and weighs 1.4kg. She should weigh between 2 and 2.5kg. She has come from a barn-laid egg production facility where thousands of birds live in a single barn space where the birds are able to “roam freely”.
Gemima does nothing but hide. She is happiest when she is locked in a coop on her own with some feed which she will eat ravenously. If there are any other birds nearby she runs to hide and doesn’t eat or drink.
On her first night at the sanctuary we quarantined Gemima with the other hens that came in from the barn. By morning she was covered in blood from where the other birds had pecked, bitten, scratched and cannibalised her. They had pulled her feathers out from the root and were eating the quills.
Knowing that these were barn-laid birds, we expected to find happier, healthier hens than the battery chickens from previous rescues. What we have found is devastating. Of the four girls, two spend most of their time trying to cannibalise other birds, almost always drawing blood. Gemima spends all of her time hiding, and will not eat if there is any other bird within earshot. The fourth spends most of her time hiding, unless found, in which case she will then cannibalise.
The largest of the girls weighs in at 1.5kg, also well below ideal weight. The birds have shown little interest in foraging or enjoying the pasture, they are constantly either hiding or attacking.
Hen communities function within the context of a “pecking order”. Hens that have never met before will fight a little to determine who is stronger and this will then determine their place in the hierarchy.
In an environment where thousands of hens are forced to live in a single space, there are simply too many hens for a hierarchy to emerge. This results in the “pecking order” becoming a never-ending battlefield. Thus, hens used by the barn-laid industry become part of an institutionalised battle that never ends. With nowhere to shelter or hide, their life is one of attack or be attacked every single day of their lives.
Weaker birds starve, or dehydrate, just like Gemima, as they are too afraid to get food or water. The majority of the attacks occur at the feeding and water stations as the stronger birds try to assert their dominance. Their lives are a living hell.
Farm Animal Rescue is strictly opposed to the use of hens for egg production. All egg production methodologies, including backyard hens, require that day old roosters be shredded or gassed. New evidence on the derogatory health effects of eggs is coming to light on a regular basis, and many cooks are realising that baking without eggs produces the same result as baking with them.
We cannot believe how damaged Gemima and her colleagues, from a barn environment are, until we consider what life must be like trapped in a battlefield with thousands of other birds every single day of your life. Farm Animal Rescue does not advocate barn-raised eggs as a more humane option than battery cages. In fact we think it quite possible the opposite is true.
Thankfully your support has allowed us to provide Gemima with a safe place to be. She now spends her nights cuddled up against rooster Manfred who comforts and protects her. While she still never leaves her coop, she is starting to eat well and ventures a little closer to the door every day.
Gemima, Alice, Hermione and Elenora are now safe at Farm Animal Rescue and with TLC we expect them to eventually become functioning members of our chicken and rooster flock. If you would like to help these girls directly, please consider our sponsorship program which allows you to help their recovery and then provides for their needs until they are old and grey. Alternatively, please make a donation so that we can liberate more of these poor souls and tell their stories.
It wasn’t Gemima’s fault that she was chosen to become a barn-laid hen. She didn’t want to spend her life in fear, hungry and thirsty every single day of her life. Please support a better world for hens by saying no to eggs.