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What is an Egg to a Chicken?

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What is an Egg to a Chicken?

Chickens, like all animals, have a language unique to their species. Each sequence of sounds that they chirp, cluck and crow has a social, emotional or personal meaning. And if you spend enough time around these feathered friends you’ll begin, as I did, to hear the stories they are telling.

The rooster’s trumpeting call summoning his hens to dinner,
The rapid peeps of chicks as they search for their mother,
The oscillating clucks of a hen as she gives birth to an egg…

Of all the chicken calls I learned during the year I spent volunteering on different organic farms, I think it was the hen’s egg-laying song that shocked me the most. Somehow I had thought it would be a quiet process, that the hens would sneak away to their favorite hiding spot and peacefully begin their nest. While hens do try to find solitude, as the laying process begins, they also start to emit an unmistakable pattern of rapid and rolling clucks accentuated by a noticeably louder “Bwak!” at the end of each sequence. They sing this song with such intensity, wide-eyed and agitated, until the egg has finally been pushed out. It is enough to make anyone grateful that they weren’t born an egg-laying hen.

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Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


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12:21AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

thanks for sharing

5:52AM PDT on Oct 10, 2013

Thank you. That's why I'd never eat an egg.
As for unfertilized ones-- I just find it disgusting, 'cause they still were parts of a body. Tastes differ.

2:32PM PDT on Sep 30, 2013

If the eggs of that hen were not yours to take, where else would you get your eggs from ? What you discribe as empathy for a single hen is nothing bur a psychological problem: you developped a relation to the chicken and then you felt guilty of robbing whereas to other chicken you don't feel guilty.

3:25AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Geetha S, the only way that people write articles like this is to try and impose their values and beliefs onto the rest of us. You say:

“One of things I had read long ago is that, if you make a person feel guilty or feel bad, you get a bit of those bad vibes rubbed off right on to you.”

An interesting concept as a lot of vegans and some vegetarians operate on a Guilt All Others principle. Some remind me (including Jane B) of right wing fundamentalists who often screech invective and point fingers and tell us that we must be like them or we are somehow selfish and unfeeling. However, all one can do is to find food that is raised in good conditions and not shoved into battery cages.

3:25AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Interesting viewpoint, Kaitlin F as you grew up on a small farm and it must have been fascinating. Jane B, many people who are not Catholics eat eggs. Get over it, even atheists eat eggs or didn’t you think of that? Not every Catholic or Christian is a pedophile or whatever problem you blame the Pope for this time. People are entitled to believe in a faith if they choose to without being labelled as a cult member. I don’t agree with a number of the doctrines Catholics have when it comes to women’s rights, etc., but I don’t screech at them in a thread about chickens.

3:24AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

Many people eat eggs or even chicken. Guess what, there are even some non-believers who are just as twisted and warped as you claim all people who follow a faith to be. To label everyone in one group as twisted and evil be it all believers in a faith or all people eating eggs or beef is in and of itself also acting twisted and evil. As for Kye J’s smug belief that meat eaters “don’t give a bugger about anyone other than themselves,” you are just as intolerant and judgemental as any other smug self-righteous vegan. This is about eating eggs by the way, not eating meat, but then you categorize anyone eating eggs in the same category as meat, honey, dairy, yogurt and cheese eaters because they aren’t vegan as you are. Like it or not, the entire world is not going to become vegan to suit you.

2:30AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

The statement that " matter where or how the egg is laid, no matter if it is fertilized or not, each egg is the beginning of a chicken."

Fascinating, but that’s like telling me that all unfertilized eggs from women are the beginning of a fetus and a baby. A highly inaccurate statement when the egg is not fertilized, more emotive than anything else. Both women and hens have had a lot of unfertilized eggs in their lives which become neither babies nor chicks.

2:30AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

I eat organic eggs from small farms where the hens live a good life, are never caged (they go into the barn at night which is spacious, roost where they feel like it, have open boxes to nestle in and spend the night with the door shut so that the foxes, weasels, fishers and other hungry wildlife don't eat them.

In the early morning the hens go out until it gets dark where they voluntarily go into the barn and settle down for the evening. In the day they run around, unrestricted. I once saw one with a mouse in her beak, yes they will eat meat, even cat food if they can pilfer it and believe me they are only too happy to try and push the cat out of her dish and wantonly swipe cat food. They will also swipe dog food as well.

2:29AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

I feel no regret whatsoever for purchasing eggs from hens that live long lives and yes, some do have some chicks of their own every now and then. If you want to believe their eggs are not ours to take, go ahead and believe it. However, as you already know most of those hens would not be alive if they are not on a farm or wherever, to produce eggs or be eaten. They would not exist at all for the most part.

The vegan minority hasn’t seized political power and imposed laws banning the use of any chickens for laying eggs or as our food (or other animals to be raised to be food). Therefore people will continue to raise hens. If we didn’t eat eggs or chickens, there would be few living on the planet with the exceptions of a few pets but most people aren’t going to raise hens strictly as pets with no eggs to be eaten for example.

2:29AM PDT on Sep 26, 2013

By all means, all hens should never live in battery farms or poor conditions. I don't buy factory farm eggs. Vegans won't eat eggs and some vegetarian do eat eggs or dairy. This isn't going to change, the only thing that needs changing are the conditions on factory farms. For those of us not purchasing from factory farms and from small time operations that are run humanely, we will continue to do so. Some say that even free range chickens live horrible lives but one simply has to check out the farm if one lives near a rural area. If not, do your research, there are many ways of finding a source. There is a lot of anthropomorphism going on here, which is not always dealing with facts, but of imposing human vegan/vegetarian sentiments on hens. No one doubts that they are feeling beings but one can still get eggs humanely. Not every hen is going to need to produce chicks from every egg that she lays any more than every woman wants to have a baby from each of her eggs passed during her life time.

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Needs more research, can I volunteer.


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