Photo of Tamerlaine resident Cornish babies
Chickens are the most killed land species in the United States, comprising 95% of the 10 billion land animals killed annually.
There are close the 300 million hens in the United States who are at this very moment in facilities profiting off of their eggs. These birds are often described as being the most mistreated of all farmed animals. This is likely due to the living conditions in which they are housed, but many other factors contribute to their abuse.
Chickens never get to know their mothers or develop their natural deep familial bonds. Instead, they are incubated by the tens of thousands in industrial hatcheries. After hatching, chicks are put on a conveyor belt and separated into males and females. The male chicks are not useful to the egg industry and are too small to be used for their flesh, so they are killed by being tossed into a running grinder and ground up alive, suffocated in plastic bags by the thousands, exposed to poisonous gases, or suctioned through a pipe to an electrified “kill plate."
Female-born chicks who will be exploited for their eggs are subject to various mutilations, namely debeaking. 1/3 to ½ of their sensitive, nerved-filled beaks are sliced off with either a hot blade or a razor, and no anesthetic is used. This happens on the day they hatch and the process often causes bleeding, nerve damage, impairments to eating and swallowing, and possibly chronic pain. If the debeaking is severe, part of their tongues can also be cut off. This procedure is done to reduce neurotic violence such as feather plucking and cannibalism, which arise when chickens live their lives together in such unnaturally tight confinement.
95% of these hens are housed in battery cages for their entire lives. Battery cages are small wire cages with five to eight hens crammed into each, with each individual having less room than a piece of standard printing paper. They have no room to move around, preform any of their natural activities such as pecking or nesting, or even spread their wings. Lights are left on for 22 hours per day to encourage laying. This is highly unnatural for the birds, as they are heavily guided by the sun’s cycles.
It is unnatural for chickens to lay eggs every single day. The common breed of hens are manipulated by light and genetically modified to be hyperproductive. Chickens in the egg industry today lay about 250-300 eggs per year, while their natural counterparts lay a maximum of 30. This constant production combined with the inability to move or exercise puts their small bodies through tremendous trauma which can lead to osteoporosis due to calcium depletion, bone breaking, paralysis, and cancer of their reproductive organs.
When they begin to become less "productive"—laying fewer eggs, dying off, or laying eggs with soft shells due to calcium depletion—hens are commonly subject to a cruel practice called “forced molting.” Birds are starved in order to induce one last laying cycle before slaughter. Birds will sometimes become desperate and try to digest their cagemates feathers. Many die during this process.
Chickens are sent to slaughter when their laying rates decline. This typically happens at the age of 1.5 to 2 years. The full lifespan of hens ranges from 10 to 15 years. The journey to the slaughterhouse is terrifying and painful for chickens. Catchers grab them by their legs and roughly shove them into crates for transport. Many of them suffer injuries such as broken legs and wings during this process. Chickens are given no food or water during transportation to the slaughterhouse and often die before they reach their final destination.
An entire flock of birds, all less than two years old, will be “depopulated” or mass killed, usually via poisonous gas. One at a time, birds are loaded on top of one another into a “Modified Atmosphere Killing” Cart and locked in until dead.
Many people believe that they can buy “free range,” “cage free,” or “certified humane” eggs that do not support these cruel practices. In reality, these labels are not clearly defined or enforced. Most of these birds are also subject to debeaking, premature death, cruel slaughter practices, and live in dangerously crowded warehouses with no windows or ventilation.
Eggs are not necessary for humans to eat, and there are many simple and delicious ways to replace them in cooking and baking.
“Broiler” refers to the breed of chickens raised for meat. Approximately 9 billion broiler chickens are raised and slaughtered each year in the United States. These birds are genetically modified to reach slaughter weight at around 42-45 days old, while the normal lifespan for a chicken is typically between 10 and 15 years.
Chickens raised for meat live extremely abbreviated lives which are so routinely filled with trauma that 300 million birds die before even making it to slaughter yearly.
Because they have been genetically manipulated to experience constant hunger with a growth rate 300% of their natural counterparts, broiler chickens suffer severe deformations and health problems such as ascites, Sudden Death Syndrome, heart attacks, and debilitating leg deformations. By about 40 days old, 26-30% of birds in this industry suffer from defects that impart their ability to walk or stand. Birds frequently collapse due to weight gain and are trampled to death by other birds or die because they cannot get to food or water..
Broiler chickens are kept in giant warehouses with no windows. The lights are carefully controlled to encourage them to eat constantly but kept dim enough so they will never exercise and consequently reach slaughter weight quicker. These warehouses contain tens of thousands of birds packed together on dirty wood-shavings and in air abundant with debris. This leads to a dangerously high ammonia levels that can result in respiratory problems, trouble breathing, infections, eye and skin lesions, blindness and open ulcers.
When broilers reach slaughter weight, “catchers” enter the warehouses and rapidly grab multiple birds at once by their legs and wings and shove them into small crates.
Often times this rough handling leads to broken bones, torn femurs, internal bleeding and other injury. They are then transported to slaughter without food or water. Many birds die during this process due to disease, trauma, and injury. An estimated 17-41 million birds die during transport alone every year.
Poultry is excluded from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, so chickens are not required to be unconscious prior to slaughter. They are shackled by their often already-broken legs and drawn into an electrified water bath that paralyses them, but this frequently does nothing to render them unconscious. Their throats are then slit, but because of the pace of the process it is not unusual that the blade not kill them immediately. Birds not killed by the blade will drown in the scalding tanks meant to loosen feathers before further processing.
Photo of Tamerlaine resident roosters
Roosters are arguably considered the most disposable animal in the meat and dairy industry. Because they are useless in egg production, 200 million rooster babies are destroyed every year. This killing usually occurs by either grinding up the male chicks alive, or throwing them into plastic bags to suffocate as if they are trash.
Roosters are also typically unwanted in some communities, because their peaceful calling is considered a nuisance to some. These beautiful birds are frequently left without a home due to these laws that owners are not familiar with until they have their roosters as pets. As a result, sanctuaries are constantly asked to take in roosters, but roosters require a large amount of space and care that put a strain on some facilities.