Friday, June 12, 2009

Chickens Huddling Together

Recently I have heard one ag economist and one newspaper affiliated with animal industries imply that hens do not need more space than cage systems allow because they are gregarious animals who like to huddle and touch one another.

This is partially true.  I have visited farms who give their chickens large space allotments, and just looking at it, the greater space can seem like a waste.  Much of it remains unused.  Regardless of how much room they have, the chickens seem to huddle together.  

Yet this should not be taken to imply that chickens care not for greater space than 67 inches per bird.  Birds in the cage system cannot even turn around without bumping into another bird a little. They want more space than that.  Moreover, the space that goes unused is occasoinally used by birds who are running to flee bully birds.  Or, a bird venturing out on its own for a little food.  Just because the space is not used all the time does not mean it is not used or valued.  The older birds become the more room they use.  Most of the older hens I have seen do not huddle together, but spread out somewhat uniformly across space.

Remember back to your playground days.  Did the children spread themselves uniformly out over the playground?  No, they "huddled" together in bunches, but they would not want to be stuffed 25 people inside of an elevator either.

If we are to raise hens in a cage system, let's do it because it produces the cheapest, safest egg possible--which it does.  Let's not lie about it.