An Overview Of Ethical Concerns for Raising Backyard Chickens
By Tom Seest
The backyard chicken trend has become a huge problem for the RSPCA and animal rescue sanctuaries. But is keeping backyard chickens ethical? In this article, I will address several important points, including the need to raise Free-range chickens rather than factory-farmed ones and the importance of feeding eggs back to the hens.
This photo was taken by Dids and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-shot-of-red-and-brown-chicken-9547856/.
Table Of Contents
Backyard chickens are a huge problem for animal rescue sanctuaries and the RSPCA. While it may seem harmless at first, the practice has negative effects on the welfare of chickens. For instance, chickens raised on a backyard farm do not have the freedom to roam around and get in trouble with the law. Even the simplest backyard chicken-keeping operation can end up in conflict with local animal protection laws.
Backyard chicken keepers also need to be aware of disease risks, especially with the use of biosecurity measures. For example, some backyard chicken keepers do not vaccinate their birds, which can pose a health risk for humans. In addition, many do not follow Defra regulations that ban feeding poultry catering waste. Furthermore, these flocks require daily care and a designated caretaker who is always around for the birds.
Keeping backyard chickens is not ethical because most of these animals come from factory farms. Approximately 500 million chicks are hatched annually in the U.S. for egg production. They are not handled humanely and are subject to abuse. Their lives are short. Most of them will be exploited and killed once their egg production dwindles.
The HSUS supports measures to prevent animal cruelty and promote the welfare of domesticated chickens. However, many of these measures are expensive. Moreover, specialist veterinary care can also cost a fortune. Backyard chicken keepers also get the benefit of free eggs.
This photo was taken by Rezk Assaf and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-shot-of-a-rooster-9754959/.
Keeping backyard chickens means providing them with a safe, clean environment that they can use for nesting. Chickens need an enclosed nesting box with a roost about two feet above the ground and ample space to walk underneath. Nesting boxes should be high enough to prevent the hens from roosting and should be sized appropriately for the breed you are keeping.
It is also important to provide adequate ventilation for the coop to keep out the cold. A draft-free, soft floor is also a good idea. The coop should also have a door that can be opened to check on the hens. A sloping floor toward the door will help with drainage and cleaning. The door should also be large enough to let you easily see your flock.
Before building the coop, you should check the soil for potential problems. Make sure that the ground is free of rocks and other debris that could make it hard to lay a strong foundation. Also, remove any large branches or shrubbery near the coop. This will prevent predators from hiding in nearby plants.
Chickens do not like being cramped. When they are crowded, they become stressed and can even act out. This can lead to pecking or feather plucking. This is not only a horrifying experience for the hen but can lead to its death.
This photo was taken by Djordje Vezilic and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photo-of-a-chicken-9842495/.
The best way to ensure your hens produce healthy eggs is to feed them back their own eggs, including the shells. Eggshells are high in calcium and can be valuable sources of nutrients for laying hens. Eggshells can also be beneficial if your chickens have reproductive issues.
As for feeding back the eggs, make sure you use a container that won’t cause too much pressure on the eggs. This will prevent your hens from stepping on or breaking their eggs. In order to ensure you’re getting the most out of your hens’ eggs, gather their eggs frequently.
Chickens need to eat a variety of food to thrive, including good quality commercial poultry feed. You can also offer them scraps of vegetables and fruits from your garden. These are great sources of calcium and should form the bulk of your chicken’s diet. Also, you can scatter various kinds of seeds in their environment.
To get rid of any bacteria and other contaminants, you can try to scrub the eggs with vegetable brushes and soak them in warm water. However, this method is not effective, as the membrane remains intact. Therefore, it’s better to soak the eggs in warm water instead, as cold water will draw in the bacteria.
It is important to note that chickens molt regularly. During their egg-laying cycle, they lay one egg a day. During extreme weather, chickens spend more time in the coop. Therefore, it’s important to collect eggs often to prevent the eggs from breaking. Cracks in the shells will allow bacteria to enter the egg. Ensure strong eggshells by feeding your chickens regular treats.
This photo was taken by Dids and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/chicken-near-a-plant-9907257/.
The Humane Society is not the only group concerned about backyard chicken welfare. No-kill rescue facilities have reported dramatic increases in the number of backyard chickens over the past five years, with two shelters seeing more than 1,000 chickens saved in 2012. One of those rescue centers, Chicken Run Rescue, owned by Mary Britton Clouse, has seen an increase from 20 rescued chickens in 2001 to nearly 500 by 2012. Clouse credits the increase to the locavore movement, which started in 2008 and continued to rise.
Many farm sanctuaries have become vocal about the importance of backyard chicken adoption and have issued a Collective Position Statement on Backyard Poultry. The statement warns against backyard flock rezoning and urges people to adopt backyard chickens. We cannot save all of the chickens on this planet,” says Carrie Harrington, spokesperson for the Marin Humane Society in Novato, California.
While it is true that backyard chicken “farmers” are responsible for providing proper care and food for their flocks, the practice of killing backyard hens is not ethical or compassionate. The chickens should have adequate medical care, proper feed, shelter, and care. Unfortunately, some backyard chicken farmers are now starting to taste the bitter pill and treat their hens like commodities.
Many urban farmers are dismayed that animal rights groups are focusing on backyard chickens when they should focus on the meat cartel. They argue that the main problem is the urban meat industry, which slaughters chickens and other livestock for profit.
This photo was taken by Ivo Matijevic and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/rooster-in-close-up-photography-9962550/.
While most salmonella outbreaks come from large poultry companies, backyard chicken flocks can also be a source of contamination. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 219 illnesses from backyard poultry in 2022, with a 12 percent hospitalization rate and one fatality. The good news is that you can greatly reduce your risk by being careful about handling backyard poultry.
To protect your family from getting infected, remember that you should always wash your hands thoroughly after touching the chickens. Never hug or kiss a chicken. And make sure you don’t touch the eggs, including the shell. If you must, you should use hand sanitizer – but only if you don’t have access to running water. The CDC estimates that one out of every 20,000 eggs will contain a trace amount of Salmonella.
The best way to reduce the risk of getting sick from Salmonella is to take proper care of your chickens. First, keep their nesting boxes clean. Never let your chickens sleep in the nesting box. Change the litter regularly. You should also collect their eggs regularly. If they’re dirty or cracked, discard them. You should also avoid feeding them with expired meat or food that’s moldy. This will reduce the risk of contamination of backyard chicken eggs.
In a study conducted in Portugal, six of 200 eggs were positive for Salmonella spp. The researchers found that the majority of backyard chicken owners were not following basic safety practices. More than ninety percent of their eggs were dirty and stored at room temperature. The Portuguese chickens had the highest prevalence of Salmonella spp., which were multi-drug resistant.
This photo was taken by Hannah Grapp and is available on Pexels at https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-shot-of-a-rooster-9660877/.