- Helen Clarke
- New Zealand
Scientific evidence suggests that the intensive confinement and barren environment of the battery cage fail to meet the hens' basic needs, causing physical and psychological suffering.
The Battery Hen spends all her laying life in a cage crammed in with three and up to seven other birds. She stands for life on a space smaller than this leaflet. Her only exit is to the slaughterhouse.
Cages are kept in huge artificially lit sheds. The hen stands on thin sloping wire - her feet and legs crippled. She cannot perch, preen, scratch in the dirt, dust-bathe, spread her wings, or escape to a quiet place to lay an egg - all activities known to be extremely important to the behavioural needs of a hen.
Battery Hens are prone to bone breakages. Their bones are brittle through over-production of eggs and lack of exercise. A high percentage have Osteoporosis. By the time they are finally slaughtered up to 56 per cent of caged hens have suffered painful fractures.
Hens moult in Autumn and are off-lay for 2-3 months to rest. Battery farmers reduce this non-productive period by semi or total starvation of the hens, in order to bring them back on-lay more quickly. Many hens die during this process.
Already over-bred for peak laying capacity, the hen's body is pushed further by lighting programs which stimulate her to lay even more eggs. Prolapse and tumours are common, as is acute calcium deficiency leading to "layer fatigue". This occurs when the hen's body can take no more and she finally collapses.
Whether free-range or battery, hens past their laying peak are regarded as useless. They are dragged from the cages, stuffed into crates, trucked to the abattoir and shackled upside down on a conveyor belt to await slaughter. Many suffer multiple fractures during this process.