Respect for Chickens
take the pledge to respect chickens; for life
Chickens are incredibly, vastly underrated animals. Descended from wild jungle fowl, the domesticated chickens we know today are brilliant birds - in both looks and brains.
"The Chicken Challenge: What Contemporary Studies of Fowl Mean for Science and Ethics (2012)", demonstrates the complexity of behaviour and the depth of chickens' intellectual capabilities. Chicken language is complex and nuanced, echoing the speech of dolphins, whales, and primates. Chickens demonstrate the Theory of Mind and understand the idea of "self." Chickens can recognise their image in a reflection, know that others have thoughts and intentions, and understand that what they do can influence others' actions.
Chickens are also amongst the most exploited animals on the planet, bred into bodies that lay many more eggs than nature ever intended or grow so fast they're the size of an adult bird in only five weeks. They are kept in cages, crammed into barns, killed on hatching if male, slaughtered when no longer of service to us. We exploit these magnificent birds in so many ways, but it doesn't have to be this way.
Chickens bred for meat
Chickens bred for meat have been selectively bred over many years to grow very big, very quickly. Modern meat chickens, or "broilers", reach slaughter weight at just 5-8 weeks of age; they are still babies with blue eyes who peep like the chicks that they are, but they have massive bodies that put enormous strain on their hearts and soft, developing skeletal systems.
The life of a broiler chicken is short and filled with suffering - suffering that is inherent to their breeding. Housed in massive sheds, day-old chicks are deposited and then 5-8 weeks later, they are collected, put in crates and shipped to slaughter. Many chicks do not survive even the five weeks until their slaughter date, as their hearts or limbs give way earlier, and unable to reach food or water, they die. Whether they are raised organically or in an enriched environment, they are the same breeds of chickens and experience the inherent suffering of their breeding.
There is inherent suffering, but the scale of the suffering is also immense. Over 600 million chickens are killed each year in Australia for their meat.
With chicken consumption on the rise, the average Australian will eat well over 30 chickens each year, consuming over 49 kilograms of chicken meat.
Chickens in the egg industry
Chickens in the egg production industry face short, brutal lives, but many people are unaware of the cruelty that forms an inherent part of the commercial egg industry.
Hens in battery cages, barn-laid systems, and many free-range systems spend their lives in artificially lit surroundings designed to maximise laying activity, with insufficient room to act on instincts like preening, nesting, foraging and dust bathing.
Hens may be debeaked, a process where day-old chicks have the tips of their beaks removed by a heated blade. This can lead to acute and chronic pain due to tissue damage and nerve injury, yet no pain relief is legally required for the procedure.
All egg systems are faced with a universal 'problem' when it comes to hatching chicks raised for egg-laying. Since only female chickens lay eggs, male chicks have no commercial value and are routinely gassed or macerated (ground up alive) on the day that they hatch. Each year, some 12 million male chicks are killed on the first day of their lives as waste products of the Australian egg industry.
Modern layer hens have been selectively bred to produce around 300 eggs in their first year of production. Before human intervention, hens would lay up to 12 eggs once a year as a single clutch. The overproduction taxes the hens tremendously, and they can only keep this level of laying up for around 12 months.
Layer hens are killed years short of their natural lifespan. Hens will naturally live for around ten years, but most layer hens are sent to slaughter at about 18 months when their unnaturally high rate of egg-laying begins to wane.
Six Ways to help Chickens
If you can, why not sponsor some rescued chickens or roosters? Adopting rescued birds is very rewarding and helps make room at sanctuaries to take in additional rescues.
Get hands-on and sign up to volunteer at a sanctuary near you! Little Oak relies on volunteers to help us keep our rescued chickens and roosters happy and healthy.
If you're a kid aged 7-11, and love chooks, join us for our Respect for Chickens workshops. You'll learn lots of fun facts about chooks, meet our flock and come away with your very own stuffed toy rescue chicken.