The Garden Small Holder has just rescued another batch of ex-battery hens, which is very good of her. The picture of these abused creatures is quite horrific. This is what a year or so of being kept in an egg-producing battery farm does to chickens, yet very often, proper living conditions and a good diet can allow these birds to grow their feathers back and lead a fairly decent life. To my mind it is criminal that the birds are allowed to be treated this way in the first place. If you treated your pet cat or dog, and probably your budgie, like this you would be prosecuted, so why is it legal to treat chickens so cruelly?
However, I'm not sure I would be willing to take on the extra stress that nursing these poor birds back to health involves. Looking after our healthy birds is quite a steep enough learning curve at the moment. I would imagine that after such an awful life their immune system must be weakened and the birds are more likely to be prone to disease, which is what seems to have been the case for these birds. It certainly doesn't strike me as the best way to start out keeping hens, but perhaps it would be a bit easier for an experienced poultry keeper who has some idea what is normal for healthy chickens.
This highlights for me the importance of Hugh Fearnley-Wittenstall's Chicken Out Campaign and the need to bring an end to battery hens and chickens raised in over-crowded and unnatural conditions. The campaign is now concentrating on the way chickens are bred for the table as so many supermarkets have said they will only stock free-range eggs, so one wonders why so many battery hens are still being kept and what happens to their eggs.
I've been buying free-range eggs and chickens for years, but it occured to me (indeed I believe I read it somewhere) that many products containing egg will contain eggs from battery hens if it is not stated that the eggs are free range, so perhaps we need to keep an eye out for that, too. It does make shopping a bit more complicated, but it's something we can do to reduce the number of hens who have to be tortured because we who live in a country where obesity is becoming a serious problem have been willing to let them suffer so we can have cheap food.