I’m really excited to share the news with you, Eco Wrappers- our little sustainable homestead has grown! We have some new additions to the household this week at Eco Food Wrap Headquarters (i.e. our rural property in the creek bushland of the NSW Central Coast) in the way of six rescued battery hens to add to our brood of rescue animals and we are so pleased to welcome these beautiful birds into our lives.
Chickens are amazing animals- especially for those considering changing to a more sustainable, off-grid way of life. Not only do they provide eggs, they are also great foragers for insects and bugs; meaning you have an inbuilt pest control system for your house and garden- especially good for the produce growers out there!
When we were once again given the opportunity to adopt a few Isa Brown hens -saving them from a torturous existence where they would be deprived of the basic freedoms chickens enjoy such as spreading their wings, sun- and dust-bathing and scratching and pecking for insects- we didn’t hesitate in welcoming ‘the girls’ into our lives. If you haven’t heard about Battery hens by now, get ready as this may be confronting.
Battery cages are a ‘housing system’ (I use the term loosely) used for various animal-as-food production methods, but primarily for egg-laying hens. The name arises from the arrangement of rows and columns of identical, often too-small cages connected together, sharing common divider walls, as in the cells of a battery. These cramped, dirty cells are used to confine and restrict their movement and provide artificially lit conditions to maximise the egg laying in order to meet huge demands on eggs from the commercial consumer market.
There has been a lot of awareness built up around this issue, but the fact still stands that a large majority of our commercial eggs come from inhumane conditions, with investigations highlighting that in some cases, even commercial ‘cage-free’ and ‘free-range’ eggs aren’t actually living the free-roaming lives the big companies would have us believe.
Battery hens have it worst of all, with reports stating that conditions are far beyond fit-for-living. Cages can either be as small as an A4 piece of paper (1)- or metre-square cages where as many chickens as possible are forced together. There are tales of extreme procedures- such as forced moulting and starvation- hens are given only water or liquid high protein diets in order to force them into egg-laying states. They are also subjected to beak trimming (often done with a hot blade) so that there is less chance of aggression towards other chickens, self-harm (pulling their own feathers) and pecking. This process often leaves them deformed with the lower beak longer then the trimmed beak on top- meaning that our poor ‘golden girls’ can only eat from deep-filled bowls as their natural way of pecking from harder surfaces results in the chickens smacking their little heads into the ground and unable to get a hold on grubs and insects.
As well as this egg producing chickens are often hybrids, meaning they are bred specifically for egg laying. Whereas most chickens will lay about 2-3eggs a week throughout their lifetimes supplemented by a diet of insects and non-genetically modified grains, hybrid ‘Isa Brown’ chickens lay everyday on a high GMO diet, depleting their little bodies and often leading to shorter lifespans and experiencing health problems due to this. When we heard the girls were available how could we not give them a new lease on life knowing all of this?
It is such a mix of emotions, watching these deprived life forms discover they are free to not just exist, but actually live as they were born to do. Chickens are amazing additions to a green household- not only do they give us eggs rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals; they are walking, fertilising, pest-controllers. Not to mention how entertaining they are as pets! They are the best garden companion around- whenever there is a spade digging up dirt in the garden they are right there helping out! The children also love them. It has become a ritual for them to take vegetable scraps and treats to them and check for eggs, usually after the chickens have loudly and proudly announced the egg’s arrival! We always know when there is a predator such as snake, monitor lizard or eagle around as they make a different sound/call to each other as a 'warning' announcement!
Our Rescue Chickens are such an important part of our off grid-family and we’re so pleased to have been able to provide the opportunity for a new life for our girls. It’s a huge privilege to watch them grow and thrive on the property, and as they are composting, fertilising, pest-controlling, egg-producing, entertaining companions they add a whole new dimension to the family and our sustainable life.
If you want to know more about adopting your own rescue chickens, there are organisations around that can put you on the path to becoming an adoptive parent. Although the process is quite involved and lengthy, it’s worth talking to an organisation such as NSW Hen Rescue, as being involved in providing new life for these birds and seeing them blossom and grow healthy is such a rewarding experience for any sustainably-minded family.
Have you got chickens, or have a story about rescue chickens of your own? How do they enrich your life? Let us know in the comments below!
(1) "The permitted stocking densities differ in each State and Territory, and depending on the weight of the hens and the number of hens crammed into one cage. In NSW, for example, if the average weight of the hen in the cage is less than 2.4 kilograms, she will be permitted a space of around 550 cm2: Regulation 10(5)(a), Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation 2012 (NSW). An A4 sheet of paper, with sides of 21.0 cm x 29.7 cm, has an area of 623.7 cm2."
Source: Footnote taken from information on https://www.voiceless.org.au/the-issues/battery-hens