Some interesting stuff here. Now that Scott and I have chickens, it’s a lot easier to understand why you’d want to buy free-range eggs. (They are more nutritious, as Mother Earth News points out, but I’m talking more about the treatment of the hens here.) I don’t like the idea of keeping a chicken in a tiny cage its entire life–and I won’t get into the details of how gruesome this life can be, but read about it if you want–any more than I’d want a dog or a cat or any other creature to live its whole life in a cage.
Our chickens are very much individuals. They have personalities, they form little friendships (Abigail would be lost without Eleanor, and vice versa), and they have very distinct likes and dislikes. When we have idly discussed the idea of expanding our flock so we can sell some eggs, we quickly dismissed the idea because it would be impossible to pay attention to the birds as individuals if you had very many of them–just the same way that crazy cat ladies are entirely unable to manage a herd of 50 or 75 cats. The quote about veterinary care for cage-raised birds in this article just proves the point:
“Lucio explained that while workers are in the buildings on a daily basis, veterinary care for the birds is limited. ‘Treatments are limited to the flock. We don’t treat one single chicken. It’s almost impossible to find one sick chicken in a chicken house of that size. Once something, such as an illness, is starting that will affect several birds, then they are treated. Most of the care the birds get is preventive. Before they arrive they’re vaccinated and then kept fed and watered.’ Lucio added that in a facility the size of Wegmans’ ‘there will be dead birds in the cages every day.’ “