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13 Sep, 19 tweets, 4 min read
Our treatment of chickens is some of the worst stuff we do to animals.

1/x
Hickman's Family Farms is unquestionably a factory farm. They are one of the top 20 producers of eggs in the USA.[1] Approximately 98.2% of egg-laying hens live in factory farms. That’s over 368 million hens at any given time.[2]
For newly hatched chicks, their life begins on a sorting machine. Male chicks of the egg-laying breed are considered waste, since they can’t produce eggs, and will be killed on their first day of life. Typical methods of culling include feeding them into a grinder while they are
still alive, or asphyxiating them with an assortment of gasses.[3][4]

For those who are expected to be profitable (healthy females), they will have a significant part of their beaks cut off without painkillers. In the wild, chickens will peck each-other to establish dominance.
But in the cramped and unnatural conditions of a factory farm where the chickens cannot move away from each-other, they are in a constant aggressive state.[5] They will be placed in individual cages, stacked on on top of the other, each with an area smaller than a single piece of
letter-size paper.[6][7] Although, instead of living in cages, they may live as “free range” chickens. According to the USDA:

..the claim Free Range on poultry products...must describe the housing conditions for the birds and demonstrate continuous, free access to the
outside throughout their normal growing cycle. [Emphasis mine.][8]

Note that the phrase, “access to the outside” is ambiguous. What is the minimum space they require outside? What is the minimum time they require outside? Are they required to spend time outdoors if they
technically have “access" to outside? These questions have no formal answer. It seems that “free range” doesn’t mean much at all. From personal conversations I’ve had with people who have worked in the industry, or otherwise have knowledge, the worst interpretations are the most
common.

Then there is the day-to-day life of the chicken. Author Jonathan Safran Foer quotes one poultry farmer explaining it to him:

As soon as the females mature – in the turkey industry at twenty-three to twenty-six weeks and with chickens sixteen to twenty –
they’re put into barns and they lower the light; sometimes it’s darkness twenty-four/seven. And then they put them on a very low protein diet, almost a starvation diet. That will last about two or three weeks. Then they turn the lights on sixteen hours a day, or twenty with
chickens, so she thinks it’s spring, and they put her on high-protein feed. She immediately starts laying.... And by controlling the light, the feed, and when they eat, the industry can force the birds to lay eggs year-round. So that’s what they do. Turkey hens now lay 120 eggs a
year and chickens lay over 300. That’s two or three times as many as in nature. After that first year, they are killed because they won’t lay as many eggs in the second year – the industry figured out that it’s cheaper to slaughter them and start over than it is to feed an house
birds that lay fewer eggs.[9]

For reference, a chicken that is not bred for industrial purposes may live for over 10 years before their natural death[10]

There are other things I could detail about the horrible treatment of chickens, including genetic issues, disease, and
unsanctioned but common abuse. But if you feel bad about about these chickens dying in this fire, and you’re right to, you should be devastated by what is considered “normal” treatment.

References

[1] "About." Hickman's Eggs. hickmanseggs.com/about/. Accessed 7 Mar 2021.
[2] Anthis, Jacy R. "US Factory Farming Estimates." Sentience Institute, sentienceinstitute.org/us-factory-far…. Accessed 7 Mar 2021.

[3] Dominion. Directed by Chris Delforce, performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Sia et al, 2018.
[4] Leary, Underwood et al. AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2020 Edition. American Veterinary Medical Association, 2020, pp. 26-27, 47.

[5] "Beak Trimming." Poultry Hub. poultryhub.org/all-about-poul…. Accessed 7 Mar 2021.
[6] Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg-Laying Flocks. United Egg Producers, 2017, pp.19.

[7] Earthlings. Directed by Shaun Monson, narrated by Joaquin Pheonix, 2005.
[8] Labeling Guideline on Documentation Needed to Substantiate Animal Raising Claims for Label Submissions (2019). U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2019, pp.11.

[9] Foer, J.S. Eating Animals. Back Bay Books, 2010, pp. 60.
[10] “Raising Chickens 101: When Chickens Stop Laying Eggs.” Old Farmer’s Almanac, 7 Oct 2020. almanac.com/raising-chicke…. Accessed 7 Mar 2021.

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