Why chickens need cages
International efforts to ban chicken coops harms birds, farmers
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
By Dennis T. Avery
My wife and I used to have free-range chickens. We didn’t get an abundance of eggs because the hens hid them in the barn hay—and then brought us batches of live chicks instead of breakfast makings. And, they stopped laying during the winter so we had to buy commercial eggs at the local grocery.
Then the local foxes and hawks discovered our chickens, and we learned first-hand why people invented chicken houses: the roosters and non-nesting hens usually survived by roosting in the barn rafters, but the nesting hens and those with chicks got taken, with the chicks as appetizers. That’s why Britain invented fox-hunting in the old days—to protect the village hens. People also kept the birds inside their homes at night, which meant more disease risk, poor husbandry, and poor hygiene.
Reluctantly, the Averys decided to put the new chickens into a coop with a fenced yard—and netting overhead to keep off the hawks.
Now our problem is that the chickens peck some of each others’ feathers off. We haven’t had any chickens pecked to death yet, but that’s the typical problem with birds that are confined, but not caged. The "pecking order" is real and natural. The only real solution is to de-beak the birds and my wife won’t allow it. We have thrown the roosters out of the "safe house" and the damaged hens are in a separate area re-feathering. But we have fewer than two dozen chickens to fuss over.
That’s why the egg producers of the modern world have invented wire cages for their hens.
One of the reasons that voters have continued to support legislation that dictates animal production methods is because there hasn’t been any consequences for their vote. That’s because other areas of the country have been making up for any loss in production. However, articles like this articulate what would happen if the entire country was forced to use these methods. Not only would our production suffer, but so would our livestock. As a student of animal husbandry, the idea of having to raise all of our chickens in an area where they are constantly threatened by attacks from predators and other chickens, and dealing with extreme environmental conditions is disturbing.