My name is Vivienne and I never met my mum. My first memory was moving along a line with all of my brothers and sisters. We were terrified. There was a lot of noise and people kept grabbing us. My sisters – Marilyn, Lucille, Grace, Mae, and Audrey – and I were thrown back in line but our brothers disappeared. One of the people grabbed me before I could try to escape and forced my beak into a hot cutting machine that cut part of my beak off – it hurt!
Once we were older my sisters and I were crammed into a barn. It was so crowded!
I liked the girls I was in the barn with but we were so bored and stressed. I know they didn’t mean to hurt me but they pecked at me and pulled my feathers out.
We couldn’t get away from each other and because we were desperate fights broke out over the food. We were laying eggs everyday. We were exhausted.
The barn was noisy and smelt very strong. It burnt my throat when I breathed in. I didn’t lay as many eggs anymore.
One day the barn opened and a pair of rough hands grabbed me. I was taken out of the barn and blinded by the light outside. I’d never seen the sky before!
My five sisters and I were placed into softer gentler hands. A kind, soothing voice spoke to me and I was put into a box. I didn’t know what was happening but the new persons’ voice made me feel better.The box opened and I was lifted out and put down on the ground. The soft, green ground felt nice on my feet and I was breathing fresh air! It was so nice to stretch out my legs and wings.
My sisters and I didn’t trust the new girls we met straight away – we were a bit shy at first and hid a lot.
But the others had been in this new place longer than us. They showed us where we could eat and drink water whenever we wanted. We roamed and explored during the day and slept on clean soft straw at night. I love my new home but I get sad when I think about the hens left behind in the barn.
The Facts – Free range barn hens
Millions of hens in Australia are crammed into small cages, crowded into barns and kept in poor conditions on farms that represent themselves as “humane” and “free range”.
Wherever they are their soul purpose is laying egg after egg until they are no longer able. Grace Kelly is one of the lucky hens who escaped “free range” farming, but she has not escaped the way her body has been altered to benefit the industry she was bred for.
Laying hens are selectively bred to lay ten times more eggs than they would naturally. This places an enormous amount of strain on them and often leads to a condition called “egg-bound” whereby they are not longer able to expel eggs from their fragile bodies. The eggs rot inside of them and leads to a horrible and painful death.
Unfortunately hens at FAR have fallen victim to this common circumstance and have required surgery to remove the broken egg, pus and blood from their reproductive system.
Although this breed of hen, the jungle fowl, can live up to 16 years in the wild, their egg laying diminishes around 18 months and that’s when they are culled in commercial farms. Commercial egg laying hens (if given the opportunity) can survive in sanctuaries for 3 years or more. However, reparative surgery is normally necessary to provide the hens with a longer and healthy life.
What can I do?
While the story of millions of free range barn hens is a tragic one, there are many things you can do personally to reduce their suffering: