Here’s the Problem With Backyard Eggs

The sad reality is that, no matter how well treated laying hens may be in their foreshortened lives, they remain the product of enormous and intentional cruelty that is inflicted only because people want to consume eggs.

~ Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

A new educational pamphlet titled “What’s Wrong with Backyard Eggs?” is the latest release from Peaceful Prairie, a farm sanctuary that provides shelter to animals rescued from cage-free, free-range, small-scale and family farms.

Yes, despite the prevalence of the modern myth that family or backyard farming is an ethical alternative to large-scale, industrial, factory farms, the reality is far from how it is portrayed. From hens to goats, sheep to cows, the animal residents at Peaceful Prairie tell a different story, and their human guardians are determined to spread the word that backyard eggs are not the way of the future.

Of course, this isn’t news to many of us who happily avoid eggs in favor of vegan alternatives, and for those who are moved to join this growing trend, you can rest assured that it’s easier than ever to replace eggs in baking, as well as for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For more information about why the farming of hens is problematic in and of itself, regardless of scale, please take a look at the following articles.

A Hens Relationship with her Eggs
My host and I were well into chopping back the lavender when we suddenly heard an agitated clucking below us. As we moved back one of the bushes we discovered a large black hen who had started a nest. She was attempting to shield her brood from the intruders hovering above her, but this hen was not a rescue. She had been brought onto the farm to produce eggs, and even though she had been clever enough to attempt a nest away from the chicken cage, her eggs were not considered her own.

Whats Wrong with Backyard Eggs?
Its easy to conceptualize the relationship as one of respectful symbiosis in which the backyard farmer provides food and shelter to her flock in exchange for the gift of hens eggs. However, this bucolic portrayal ignores several essential ethical questions, not the least of which being the fundamental issue of whether humans have the right to breed other animals for our own purposes, and whether it is appropriate for us to conclude that a hen doesnt care whether someone other than herself decides what happens to her eggs.

Backyard Chicken Farming Leads to Abandoned Hens
The reality is that raising local and home-grown animals will never be humane or ethical, nor is it possible to supply the demand for animal products and flesh in any manner. Small-scale hipster farmers are simply getting a taste of what it means to treat a living, breathing animal as a product, and it appears that many dont have the stomach for it.

Cage-Free? Not Free Enough.
In recent years, the campaign to replace battery-farmed eggs with a cage-free, guilt-free version has gained tremendous popularity. For those who are aware of the suffering of hens in the egg industry, the cage-free movement appears on the surface to offer a win-win situation: improved welfare standards for hens… and eggs can remain on the menu, even for concerned consumers.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 months ago

thanks for the article.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney5 months ago

There is nothing wrong with back yard eggs, would eat them any day then the ones you buy from the shops, nice golden yolks, have never harmed me, have eaten them for years.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis Whitney5 months ago

The only thing that harmed the eggs on the farm was snakes, nearly crapped myself one day when I looked in the nest and there was a big red bellied black snake, My brother went and got dad and I hid in the outside dunny, keeping peaking through a hole in the tin wall, dad got it out and that was the end of the snake it was over 4 foot long, needless to say no more eggs disappeared after that. Was always weary collecting the eggs after that.

Diane L.
Diane L.about a year ago

No, Great White, you did NOT have to say that, and it's just your personal opinion that you might be more evolved than the rest of us. Since this is such an old discussion, and since your reasons have been refuted dozens of times, I kind of disagree that you are amongst the "more evolved". When you can reply to comments with a bit more sense and more factually, you will be given a bit more respect, but not until.

'Great White' Earth-Being
'Great White' about a year ago

I have to say this, even though it will at least be disagreed with by less Evolved Non-Vegans:
If we were all most evolved Vegans, then this and all of these type problems would not exist or at least disappear extremely fast. Heck, if most of our species were most evolved Vegans and the rest of our species were more evolved Vegetarians moving towards most evolved Vegans, then this and all similar problems would be going extinct over time.

Read more:

'Great White' Earth-Being
'Great White' about a year ago

Thank You, Awesome Article!!!

Carole R.
Carole R.about a year ago

Thanks for the post.

Diane L.
Diane L.about a year ago

Sylvie B., with all due respect, you are "absolutely positive" about something that is obviously something you know NOTHING about. A hen will lay eggs no matter what, providing the daylight is sufficient and the temperatures adequate and the hen has been given enough food. She will lay if she's the ONLY hen, or one in a flock, and with or without a rooster around. Without a rooster, she will lay an egg, maybe even two a day, and won't sit on them as she has NO maternal instincts. If she'd had those eggs fertilized, she might, and then, yes, when life within started becoming evident, and those eggs hatch, she'll become "motherly". In 18 months, my six hens have never sat on the eggs they've laid, and if I didn't collect them daily, they'd just add up until the oldest ones started to rot. I wonder how "motherly" a hen will get forced to lay her latest egg next to a rotting one?

Yvonne Snyder
Yvonne Snyderabout a year ago

good points, sylvie.

Sylvie Bermannova
Sylvie Bermannovaabout a year ago

I'm absolutely positive that a hen--or a mother-to-be--cares about her eggs a lot: After all, her chicks--or children--are supposed to hatch from them, which she is sure to know. For animals there are powerful maternal instincts and feelings at play, and it is a matter of self-preservation. Consuming eggs means killing bird embryos, or basically unborn birdies, which a brooding bird must naturally mind. By preventing hens from acting upon their instincts--no matter how much they engage in egg laying, these painstaking efforts of theirs are always futile, never leading to a brood of youngs--, we deprive them of their ethological needs, which must naturally frustrate them.

While the conditions in which they are kept do count--several laying hens who can run freely around in the grass certainly are better off than their factory-farmed sisters multitudes of whom are confined to cages--, I do agree that the keeping of hens for eggs {or for meat, of course} means using them. Such is a selfish and superior relationship: No matter how much good care we take of them, the price we make them pay is high: we use their bodies, we do not let their babies be born, we kill unproductive ones...

Some may say that if their eggs were not consumed and all were allowed to hatch, or if little roosters were not killed, there would soon be too many birds to take care of. Therein arises the question of the rightness of animal domestication and husbandry, the ethics of which remain questionable.