Saturday, January 24, 2009

35,000 Free Range Chickens

How can people have (or pretend to have) such tunnel vision?

These photos say it all -- factory-farm "free range" and truly free range . Can you guess which is which?

Warehoused chickens photos from:
Pastured chickens photo from Grass Fed Farms

An article on Discovery News online reports that caged chickens are healthier than free range chickens. Free range chickens peck each other more. They tend to have more problems with bacterial infections such as E coli. Why could that be?

From page two of the article:

Flock size was part of the problem, Fossum said. Cages held a maximum of 10 birds. But free-range flocks sometimes contained as many as 35,000 chickens. Even though these chickens had the freedom to hop outside and roll in the dirt, they were more likely to bump into each other, fight, and share diseases.

Thirty-five thousand chickens confined in one static space? Walking around in feces-laden litter? I've read elsewhere that "free range" chickens of this sort are often not let outside until they have become too old to try new things. Newly hatched chicks will accept whatever world they find themselves in, but as they grow older, they become set in their ways. If management doesn't open the gates to the outside early enough in the pullet's life, she may never go outside. What would be the point anyway? Even when chickens do go outside, it's not as though they find green grass to graze and rich soil where they can scratch for insects. The best they might hope for is a dust bath that's already been used by thousands of other chickens.

There's a young woman here in Lockhart who sells eggs from "free range" chickens she keeps in the yard at her home. I bought a dozen from her and was very disappointed to find the same thin shells and pale yolks one sees from factory-farm hens. The young woman mentioned that the hens were eating purchased feed. I suspect she was keeping a fairly large flock of hens in a relatively small space. The hens had probably killed all the grass, and the soil was probably toxic from too great an accumulation of manure. In other words, these were not truly "free range" hens. The eggs themselves tell the truth. There's a great photo here: of ten eggs, all from the same hen. Some of the eggs were laid when the hen was outside eating grass and insects, the others are from when the hens were penned.

Back to the Discovery article -- what blows my mind is that a "study" was required to convince people that it's not healthy to keep thousands of hens cooped up together. I have to wonder if these people have ever bothered to learn the conditions required to have a truly healthy hen.

The most disturbing thing to me about this article is that it is confusing to the point of being deceptive to someone who has never raised truly free-range, healthy chickens. The unfortunate creatures packed into warehouses with outdoor "runs" that make the worst state prisons look like palaces are NOT free range chickens.


  1. Amen sister! Too many people are so isolated (I include myself in that group as well, but I'm working on it) from the origins of their food, both animal and plant, it's just the way things work in this day.

    I really long for the time when people raised at least some of their own food, a few chickens, a pig, a goat... I long for a time when people grew some of their own fruits and veggies. Back in the day, people understood more about the food chain, and the food that they DID purchase in the LOCAL store probably came from one of their neighbors instead of being trucked in or flown in from across the country.


  2. Okay. Yeah. You are doing a good job of convincing me to going back to being vegan!