Archive for the ‘poultry welfare’ Category

The Urban Chicken Consultant Recommends: The Chicken Store

Back in 2000, I went on a cruise with my friends Bill and Vickie. We were biking around Key West, and I spotted a bike with a license plate that said “The Chicken Store.” I quickly flagged our tour guide, who didn’t understand my enthusiasm, but nevertheless agreed to take us to the Chicken Store on Duval Street.

Apparently Key West has feral chickens. Lots of ’em. They hatch cute fuzzy little chicks, the roosters crow, they cross the road, they annoy residents. And people abuse them by breaking their legs, shooting them with BB guns, and other such nonsense.

The Chicken Store takes in the injured chickens and rehabilitates them, and then adopts them out. They sell all kinds of great chicken-related paraphernalia to help with the rescue efforts. Next time you’re in Key West, check out this store!

There are pictures of the chickens of Key West, as well as chicken-related merchandise, on their site:

The Urban Chicken Consultant Recommends: Chicken Sweaters

Apparently the Brits are serious about their chicken rescue operations. Women in England are knitting little sweaters for feathered working girls rescued from battery cage operations. Check out the coverage here: Chicken sweaters.

May 4: International Respect for Chickens Day

Ah, the lowly chicken! They outnumber people on this terrestrial orb. They provide eggs, meat, amusement, and poop. They are culture’s unsung heroes. It’s about time they had their day.

The following is a press release from May 4, 2005, from the United Poultry Concerns website:

United Poultry Concerns is launching International Respect for Chickens Day on May 4th. We’re urging everyone to do an ACTION of compassion for chickens on that day. This can range from writing a letter to the editor to tabling at a local mall to showing the movie Chicken Run to students, family and friends.

“International Respect for Chickens Day is a day to celebrate the dignity, beauty, and life of chickens and to protest against the bleakness of their lives in farming operations,” says UPC president Karen Davis. “Chickens are lively birds who have been torn from the leafy world in which they evolved. We want chickens to be restored to their green world and not be eaten.”

The idea for International Respect for Chickens Day traces to famed Le Show host and star of The Simpsons, Harry Shearer, who proclaimed Sunday, May 14, 2000 – Mother’s Day – National Respect the Chicken Day because hens are justly praised as exemplars of devoted motherhood.

In March 2005, Walt Disney Studios contacted United Poultry Concerns about Disney’s upcoming movie Chicken Little, starring a chicken as a hero, just as in real life chickens are heroic protectors of their families and flocks.

In Letters from an American Farmer, a study of American colonial society published in 1782, St. John de Crevecoeur wrote about chickens, “I never see an egg brought to my table but I feel penetrated with the wonderful change it would have undergone but for my gluttony; it might have been a gentle, useful hen leading her chickens with a care and vigilance which speaks shame to many women. A cock perhaps, arrayed with the most majestic plumes, tender to his mate, bold, courageous, endowed with an astonishing instinct, with thoughts, with memory, and every distinguishing characteristic of the reason of man.”

Bird specialists agree that chickens are highly intelligent individuals with social skills that Professor John Webster calls “pretty close to culture – and an advanced one at that. Chickens are sentient creatures and have feelings of their own,” he says. International Respect for Chickens Day urges people to honor chickens by performing a compassionate action for chickens on May 4th. (

What to do with the boys? The Scoop on Roosters

So, you want eggs. You have hens. Do you need a rooster to have eggs? The answer is no.

In fact, the animal control and bird rescue folks would prefer you didn’t keep roosters.

Why? Well, we’ve been seeing a lot of homeless roosters lately, and they are very hard to place. Most people who find roosters want them to go to no-kill homes, and honestly, it’s hard to fit that bill.

If you’re an urban chicken owner, think ahead to the question of “What if I get a rooster?” Help us keep down the rooster population in urban areas:

  • Purchase sex-linked chicks. These breeds result in chicks whose coloration is slightly different, depending on gender. Only certain breed are sex-linked.
  • Purchase sexed chicks. For those non-sex-linked breeds, it is possible to sex chicks after hatching. Not all hatcheries sex chicks, so be careful.
  • Do not purchase straight-run chicks – unless you know what you are going to do with the boys. Half of them will most likely be roosters.
  • DO NOT HATCH CHICKS – unless you know what you are going to do with the boys. Fifty percent of the hatch will be male.
  • Turn them into dinner. You can take roosters to a licensed slaughtering facility. If you are amenable to this option, you can go from live bird to dressed bird for about $4.
  • If you do have a rooster, please do not release him! Find a more humane alternative. Contact local farms and rescue agencies. Check with other chicken owners to see if they would like a rooster.
  • Keep him. Roosters make a lovely, protective addition to a flock. If you can get past the crowing, the rooster will keep a protective eye on your girls. And there is no harm in eating fertilized (unincubated) eggs!

Remember, these are live creatures and should be treated as such.

Home to Roost at Whittier Elementary School, April 19-20, 2011

Home to Roost will be visiting Whittier Elementary School in Oak Park on April 19-20 for a two-day education series on food, sponsored by the Whittier Green Team.

We’ll be talking about the differences between home-raised meat and eggs and battery-cage meat and eggs, and the kids will be quizzed on what they learned!

The event is only open to Whittier Elementary School students.






Egg Carton Labels: What’s in a Name?

Free range. Organic. Cage Free. Omega-3. Farm Fresh. All Natural.

The labels on egg cartons are sometimes not all they’re cracked up to be. What do all these terms mean? If you don’t have your own chickens, how can you know you’re getting eggs from humanely treated hens?

A label you won’t see is battery. About 98% of the eggs produced in North America are from battery hens, who “live” in horrific conditions: allotted a space no bigger than their bodies in tight quarters with other hens, they are force-molted through starvation to keep up egg production. Their beaks are trimmed with a hot wire to prevent pecking. The birds are handled with no concern for their lives or safety, and their bones are broken in handling. Many live their lives not even able to flap their wings.  They die from starvation if they get stuck in their cages, and often dead hens are not discovered and remain in the cage until after they have decomposed.  To learn more about the conditions in battery-cage facilities, click here or here.

So, what’s a better option, and what do all those labels on the more expensive eggs mean anyway?

Here’s the skinny on all the labels. Truthfully, many don’t hold a lot of meaning in terms of animal welfare, so investigate before you buy.

Find a pdf summary of this information in table format here: Egg Carton Labels.

Farm fresh: This term is largely meaningless, and hens are battery kept.

All natural: This term is largely meaningless, and hens are battery kept.

Omega-3 Enhanced: This means the chickens were fed large amounts of food containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, which are expressed in the egg. The hens are mostly battery-cage hens. A better alternative to omega-3 enhanced eggs is to simply eat more foods with these fats, since eggs are not a great source.

Cage-Free or Free-Run: These terms apply to chickens who are not kept in battery cages. They live in henhouses with free access to the enclosed space but do not get outdoors. They are force-molted and treated like battery hens. These facilities are not inspected to assure conditions are as advertised.

Free-Range: These hens are house in conditions similar to those in cage-free or free-run environments, with the exception that they have access to the outdoors. Sometimes this consists of a small door on the henhouse that may or may not be kept open. These facilities are not inspected to assure conditions are as advertised.

Pasteurized: These eggs have been processed to eliminate salmonella bacteria. They have been heated very quickly to a very high temperature to kill bacteria and present less of a risk if eaten raw.

Certified Organic: These hens get an organic diet and have access to the outdoors and vegetation. Their beaks may be trimmed and they may be force molted. Organic eggs must be certified by inspectors. However, the food advocacy group Cornucopia Institute recently found that an “organic” egg-production facilities are using battery production methods. Read their report here.

Animal Welfare Approved: These hens are raised humanely indoors and are cage free. They are not force molted, and beak trimming is very limited. This is the highest standard available, but these eggs are not sold in stores. They are inspected by the Animal Welfare Institute. Find more information here.

American Humane Certified: These birds have more room than battery-cage hens (the size of a piece of legal-sized paper) and they are not force molted, but their beaks may still be trimmed, and studies show that this method of caging is still detrimental to health. These facilities are inspected by a third-party verifying agency.

United Egg Producers Certified: This means the hens have access to fresh food and water. They may be battery kept and force molted, and their beaks may be trimmed. More info on UEP here.

Pastured: The hens that lay these eggs are kept on pasture (or in backyards) and are not confined. They have access to bugs, worms, and other natural foods, and they also eat grains. For more information on pastured eggs, click here. These eggs have more omega-3 fatty acids and higher concentrations of certain vitamins.

As you buy eggs, be aware that commercial egg producers slaughter all male chicks (50% of the hatch) shortly after they hatch. Male chicks are of no use to the egg industry.

So, there you have it. If you don’t have your own chickens, you can make a wiser decision about where your eggs come from.


The Humane Society of the United States. “Egg Carton Labels.” The Humane Society of the United States. Posted Nov. 9, 2009.

Copley, Jennifer. “Egg Labels–Free Range, Organic, and Omega-3.” Suite Posted Jan. 8 2010.

Butler, Kiera. “Is Your Favorite Organic Egg Brand a Factory Farm in Disguise?” Posted Oct. 4, 2010.

Certified Humane: The hens live in barns, uncaged, and they can do normal chicken things like dusting. They are not starved to force a molt but their beaks may be trimmed.  These facilities are inspected