Bhutan Wants Happy Chickens on Happy Farms

The country that decided to measure GHN (Gross National Happiness) instead of GNP (Gross National Product) is extending that yardstick to agriculture. The whole country is going cage-free and organic.

On August 2nd Bhutan’s Minister of Agriculture and Forests officially declared the country is adopting “Battery Cage Free Poultry Farming”. Humane Society International praised the animal welfare reforms and explained:

The Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Royal Government of Bhutan, declared that any female domesticated chicken, turkey, duck, goose, or guinea fowl kept for the purpose of egg production, including pullets, shall never be continually confined in restrictive cages that prevent them from fully stretching their limbs or expressing important natural behaviors. The order also mandates that birds shall have sufficient space to be able to perch or sit quietly without repeated disturbance.

The announcement follows a June 19th statement at Rio+20 that Bhutan intended to commit to 100 percent organic agriculture. Addressing the opening session, Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley cited four reasons for the decision:

  • Protection of soil health and fertility, ground and surface water, and biodiversity
  • Creation of new economic opportunities
  • Strengthening of the independence, self-esteem and self-reliance of the nation’s farmers
  • Strengthening of culture and rural communities

Next: Bumps on the Road to Sustainable Agriculture

Both moves are in line with the four pillars of Gross National Happiness: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. That does not mean the changes will be without opposition.

Many farmers in Bhutan have adopted adopted industrial practices. When the Bhutan Observer examined records of the National Soil Services Centre, it found that in 2007 farmers were applying 7.9 kg of chemical fertilizers per hectare. A year later that had climbed to 26 kg per hectare. In addition, mechanized farming and pesticides have increased yields and replaced farm workers, while urbanization has reduced available farmland. The same thing has happened in the poultry sector, where increased industrialization has led to large-scale operations where egg-laying poultry are confined.

Still, both moves make important statements about the nation’s commitment to living up to the tenets of Gross National Happiness. As Andre Leu, president of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and Australian adviser to the Bhutanese government told National Public Radio:

All these problems are solvable, they just need a few more years of research to come up with some more effective solutions.

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Photo credits: Thinkstock

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Danielle I.
Danielle I.3 years ago

Nicole B - I agree 100% with most of what you have said, however, hens WILL lay eggs regardless of whether there is a rooster present. The only difference being that with a rooster the eggs will be fertilised and therefore able to hatch baby chicks. Unfertilised eggs (where no rooster is present) will never develop into chicks but are fine for eating.

Nicole Bergeron
Nicole Bergeron3 years ago

Rachel B. says "Roosters will still be killed at birth because they can't lay eggs.
Also, organic means no veterinary care. That means that when hens begin to develop uterus issues, no visits to the vet are allowed"

False, Roosters are rarely killed upon hatching on small farms and organic farms, that is FACTORY FARMS (makes me sick), please learn the difference (and even factory farms kept one or two roosters around in a cage), most are giving away to other farms, those not given away are kept as a CHICKEN CANNOT (or will not) LAY EGGS WITHOUT A ROOSTER PRESENT. Organic does NOT mean no vet care, it means that they are not pumped full of antibiotics and steroids everyday, just when they need it, such as when they are sick and many have vet check ups once a year. Organic farms often times only have as many animals as they can handle (some are just starting out and think they can handle a lot), meaning they can watch the animals for signs of illness or problems with egg laying/birthing. And when the tissue beings to form is a very important time for chickens and many organic farmers will check with a vet to makes sure that the feed is giving them everything they need.

Nicole Bergeron
Nicole Bergeron3 years ago

My Grandmother, when she was a child, was raised on a farm. They only kept the chickens confined in the chicken shed during the winter (they lived in Minnesota) or at night to help keep predators at bay. They let them roam the yard during the day during the warmer months. She says that the eggs in the stores taste differently and cook up differently. She says that even the chickens themselves taste differently when they are raised in cages.

"Happy chickens make better, and more, eggs, and tastier meals" she always say. Every animal deserves to be happy when they are alive, and chickens are happy being free-range and being left alone when they perch.

Now only if the US would follow suit on the treatment of animals. GO BHUTAN!!!

Marie Therese Hanulak

Kudos for Butan

Angel Campbell
Angel Campbell3 years ago

What a cool idea!

Deborah F.
Deborah F.3 years ago


Elaya Raja
Elaya Raja3 years ago


Sarah W.
Sarah W.3 years ago

I wanna run away to Bhutan

Heather H.
Heather H.3 years ago

Congratulations to a country who is so much more progressive in it's treatment of poultry than the United States and other supposed Civilized nations..One would hope that other countries will follow their amazing example. Good For you Bhutan!

Jim F.
Past Member 3 years ago

Happier hens means more "happy" eggs, healthier hens, eggs , and people who eat the eggs.