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Australia's Battery Hen Farms

.The Battery Hen spends all her laying life in a cage crammed in with up to five other birds. Each hen stands on a space smaller than an A4 piece of paper. Her only way out is to the slaughterhouse.

Sth Tas farm April 2007 hen from Sth Tas farm April 2007
Photo above taken as part of the footage presented on ABC's Stateline from a Southern Tasmanian battery hen farm Photo of a featherless hen found in a Southern Tasmanian farm

Battery Cages
hens in battery cages Battery cages are rows and rows of bare wire cages kept in huge artificially lit sheds often stacked in tiers on top of each other that can range from 4 to eight deep. There is no access to sunlight and fresh air. The hen stands on thin sloping wire which provides extremely unnatural conditions for her legs, feet and claws. Her legs and feet often become crippled causing large amounts of pain and her claws grow abnormally long and can grow around the wire, making it difficult for her to reach food and water. She cannot perch, preen, scratch in the dirt, dust-bathe or spread her wings, and most of all she cannot escape to a quiet place on her own to lay an egg - all activities known to be extremely important to the behavioural needs of a hen.

The Price we pay for “farm fresh” eggs!!
Hens in battery cages can suffer a variety of injuries that go unnoticed in the gloomy cages. Birds in the top and lowest cages suffer most from neglect, being hard to see. Often, birds reach the point of death before farmers notice anything. Worse, dead hens are left in cages for long periods while 'farm fresh' eggs roll past or lodge against the corpses.

Broken Bones - bones become brittle from lack of exercise, space to stretch and the constant strain on their body of producing eggs. A large number of hens are affected by osteoporosis and the methods of catching hens by grabbing as many as possible by their legs and often throwing them into crates to be transported to slaughterhouses can result in large percentages suffering painful fractures before they even reach their fate.

De-beaking – Severely frustrated hens competing for space will peck at each other. Farmers have decided that the way to cope with this is to remove up to half of the top mandible and a third of the bottom with a hot wire guillotine. This causes severe pain and at times death from shock. Also the nerves in the beak stump are still active and the hen suffers pain for months, perhaps years afterwards. Due to the large numbers of chickens being de-beaked this procedure can often be carried out incorrectly, removing too much of the beak crippling the chicken for life and preventing them from getting enough food to survive. When the nerves grow back the beak often forms an abnormal tangled mass (neuroma) which causes long term pain.

hen in cage with feather lossFeather loss – Hens suffer from feather loss and red sore patches of skin from having to continually stretch their neck through the bars of the cage to reach the food at the front. After one year the hens will develop inflamed and raw chests without any feathers. This also affects the tail and neck area and sadly by the end of their short lives the majority of battery hens have lost the majority of their feathers.

Forced Molt - Hens moult in autumn and naturally have a rest from laying for 2-3 months. Forced moult is illegal in Australia but Battery farmers attempt to reduce this non-productive period by replacing feed with low nutrient food which is less appetising to the hens therefore changing the natural rhythms of their bodies and bringing them back on-lay more quickly. This process only causes further stress to the already weakened and tired hens.

Artificial Lighting Programs – Todays commercially bread hens lay daily, causing unnatural stress; the hen's body is pushed even further by lighting programs and hormones in the feed which stimulate her to lay even more eggs. Prolapse and tumours are common and hens can suffer from calcium deficiency leading to "layer fatigue" where the hen finally collapses.

dead baby chicksMale chicks? Half of all chicks born are male. The majority of them are killed when they are one day old. Methods used are crushing, mincing and suffocation. There is no room for sentiment in the poultry industry.

Do Unhappy Hens Lay Eggs? Yes they DO. Laying eggs is a natural, biological and sexual function. Battery Hens are bred for maximum laying capacity and this is made worse by their high protein diet and unnatural lighting programs in the sheds.

 

Even confined, crippled, miserable, de-beaked and de-feathered hens will still lay eggs!

What are the alternatives?

Egg-free - An end to buying and using eggs means an end to cruelty.  Many alternative products are available that are healthier for you, and healthier for hens (see What Can You Do? below).

There are several alternatives to battery cages that are already in use in Australia and overseas. Some are better than others.

Enriched Cages – Are very similar to battery cages except the cage has a perch and a dust bathing box, however birds are still kept in cramped conditions and have to compete for space.

Barn or deep litter – Hens live permanently in a shed on litter such as straw. Nest boxes and perches are available yet the large amounts of hens still mean that there is a lot of competition for perch space or nests. The RSPCA has endorsed these kinds of conditions for their ‘liberty eggs’.

free-range hensPerchery or Aviary – Hens live permanently in a shed similar to the barn system but the shed is multi storied so the perches and wire platforms are on different levels.

Free Range – Hens are able to access outside areas during the day and roost in the shed at night, this is a much more traditional way of keeping hens.  Be aware that 'free-range' can mean little difference to barns or aviaries.  In such cases many birds may never actually see daylight.

What Can You Do?

Every consumer has the power to make a difference and say "No!" to these conditions. All commercial egg production systems have negative consequences for chickens, so the most humane option is to not eat eggs at all. These days there are egg alternatives such as arrowroot and commercial egg replacers, and many other ways in which to get your protein such as nuts, beans, tofu and other soy products. Or, you might consider buying some end of lay battery hens and giving them a new life. They will reward you with eggs for years to come.

AACT Now

Write to:

Premier Lara Giddings, http://www.premier.tas.gov.au/contact Parliament House, HOBART TAS 7000

Bryan Green
Minister for Primary Industries, and Water
Email: bryan.green@parliament.tas.gov.au
Parliament House
Hobart Tas 7000

Your local State Government member

Download and print our ban factory farming petition fill it with signatures and return to us.

Only public opinion and response can permanently alter conditions for our fellow animals. YOUR support, YOUR letters, YOUR refusal to buy cruel products will in turn create a better world for the animals.

CONTACT AACT (see details at the bottom of each page) to join us in our campaign to ban battery hen cages.


re-homed ex-battery hen

 

Hens as companion animals. Read this wonderful story of a dozen hens rescued from a battery hen farm and see photos of truly happy hens.

 

 

 

For more information on the cruelty of battery hen farming see the Animals Australia website.

 

Against Animal Cruelty Tasmania

Email: info@aact.org.au Tel: 0408 970 359

 
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