Egg laying hens
Hens who provide eggs for human consumption are a descendent of the Red Jungle fowl, a bird native to the Amazon, and are among millions of animals introduced, bred and raised for 'food' in Australia.
Conditions on egg producing 'farms' are designed so that these hens unnaturally lay an egg virtually every day. Laying an egg isn't an act in itself, but is the end of the reproductive cycle, which means that egg-laying hens are forced into a full reproductive cycle almost every day of their lives.
Many egg laying hens are kept in battery cages, generally 6-10 birds kept in a small cage, with the space available for each bird is around the size of an A4 piece of paper. With the cages mounted on top of one another to save space, droppings from the top cages make their way onto the lower ones.
"Free range" or 'barn laid' eggs, although not confined to individual cages, are allowed to roam in high barns of five to ten thousand other birds.
Hens naturally live in highly structured societies that involve a 'pecking order'. In small natural communities, the pecking order is established quickly. However, when hens in free range facilities are forced with thousands of other chickens, a pecking order can never be established, causing stress and casualties for the birds. Free range and barn birds need to be more aggressive simply in order to survive, and are know under these conditions to peck eyes, feathers and cause deep wounds in their companions, causing pain and casualites.
Gemima was a barn chicken who arrived at sanctuary half her natural weight, severaly malnourished. She was so scared of the other birds she'd barely venture even to get her food from her bowl. She needed surgery in order to prevent her from continuing to lay so many eggs, and now is one of the healthiest of our rescued hens.
Although the species has a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years, commercial egg laying hens are killed at 18 months old once their egg production declines. Some never even make this age, with about 2% suffering from crippling cancers or infections that take over their bodies even before this young age.
Roosters, who are unable to lay eggs, are killed even earlier. Shortly after hatching most rooster chicks are shredded, disposed of in a rubbish bin or sold as snake food, all routine practices in the egg industry.
Sarah-Jane, one of the sanctuary hens, has a permanently broken leg. Even after six weeks in a cast when she was first rescued, her bones would not knit due to her body's extended depletion of nutrients.
The nutrition required to create an egg every day is substantial, and ultimately requires the hen to forgo the nutrition she'd normally use in order to maintain her own good health, as well of that of the egg inside her. Many rescued hens develop signs of the protein and calcium deficiency they have suffered as a result.