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What’s Wrong with Backyard Eggs?

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What’s Wrong with Backyard Eggs?

written with Christine Wells,


Vegans are accustomed to being asked certain questions:  How can you live without cheese? (Easily and with clean arteries); Where do you get your protein? (Ask a gorilla); What if you and a pig were stranded on a desert island? (….what?).  But we also get asked just as frequently (though somewhat less facetiously) about backyard chickens being kept specifically for eggs.

Initially, raising backyard chickens may seem to address a number of problems from the perspective of avoiding industrialized farming, buying local, and animal welfare. However, as we look more closely at the reality of the backyard chicken trend, it becomes increasingly clear that it is the same commodification of animals, packaged in niche marketing to appeal to the modern “conscious consumer”.

It’s 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 concerns, not the least of which being the fundamental issue of whether humans have the right to breed and use other animals for our own purposes, not to mention buying and selling them as chattel property, which is unavoidable when animals are being used as resources.

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Read more: Animal Rights, Conscious Consumer, Food, Pets

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Angel Flinn

Angel Flinn is Director of Outreach for Gentle World – a non-profit educational 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 the transition.


+ add your own
12:13PM PDT on Sep 15, 2014

Info to think about

12:40AM PDT on Aug 18, 2014

Backyard eggs are marvellous if the hens are treated well. Elaine A, if the egg is unfertilized, the egg will never hatch into a chick.

Antonio C said to me:

"@ Dale O - what you "like" eating is hardly relevant to the issue. Your attempt to rationalize your decision to consume animal flesh is clearly fallacious to the point of being ridiculous."

How so? Eating meat is hardly illegal, nor is this a crime (although some vegans would like it to be), nor is the decision to eat meat outside of the norms of society, despite the attempts of some to stigmatize what people have done for thousands of years as something that is somehow to be abhorred. If you don't wish to either eat eggs or eat meat, that is your decision, but meat has been part of the human diet of many people for ages, therefore it is not fallacious at all. Only to vegans and vegetarians who don't believe that eating meat is acceptable to them, but that doesn't mean that only plant-based eating is for everyone. Yes, I 'like' eating many things, be it veggies, legumes, grains, meat, eggs, cheese and honey but food is also, for the most part, nutritional and required to survive and not everyone does well on a vegan or vegetarian diet. So if
a person likes certain food, it hardly takes away from its nutritional value.

6:58AM PDT on Sep 30, 2013

There is nothing wrong with ANTS, I suppose?

7:25PM PDT on Sep 29, 2013

After several years raising chickens, I agree they aren't the brightest bulbs in the lamp, but I enjoyed working with them. We had a large fenced-in yard, about an acre, near their chicken house. We raised the cockerels for meat and kept the pullets to replace elderly hens. Our roosters had distinctive calls, so we could recognize them.

9:41PM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Lots of things to think about. I am a vegetarian and get my eggs from a friend's friend who has them in her backyard as egg laying pets. Now I want to go see them.

4:14AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

(cont)................ Are they "affectionate"? Absolutely not. They do "squat" and allow me to pet them but it's about a "gesture" of submission more than anything. Seems they've figured it out that if I reach down to pet them and they "comply", then they are allowed to then get those tasty mealworms I may have brought with me.

4:13AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

Exactly, Rosemary! I have 6 hens, and they were only a few days "hatched" when I got them. I got mine at the feedstore where I buy my horses' feed and was told that they were from local "breeders" if you want to call them that. When I first moved here, I boarded my horses at a nearby farm where they also kept a couple of cows, turkeys, goats and yes, chickens. They did have one rooster and when chicks were hatched, she kept a few and took the others to the feed store. I never paid that much attention at the time.

Mine are all female (hens) and I was told when I got them that they were likely to be all hens, but at that age, no guarantee. I guess I "lucked out". I got them in the 3rd week of March and they've been laying for almost 2 months now. I usually get 5 - 6 eggs a day, sometimes just 4, but today I got 7. Mine have a "house/coop" where they roost at nite and have their "nesting boxes", but they go in them only to lay. They do not sit (brood) at all. They have free access to an "outside" yard that is about 40' x 60' and weather permitting, they get out of that and can completely free roam on almost 5 acres. When I go to the door of their yard, they immediately come running back and go in by themselves.

They most certainly are not the "brightest bulbs in the pack", and seem to act more out of instinct than anything.........highly reactive. They are NOT debeaked and when they come flocking to me, they can "peck" pretty hard. Are they "affectionate

3:44AM PDT on Sep 27, 2013

I'm sure that the thoughtful person wanting backyard chickens can find a local small breeder who will provide him/her with chickens that have not been debeaked, and who deals with all those suplus young cockerels in a way that causes minimum suffering. ( I admit I don't like this aspect of it!)

Once you have these unmutilated hens, you can enjoy watcing them live in the present as they scratch around like their ancestors, the Red Junglefowl. I like Dutch bantams in the colour variety called Gold Partridge, because they look so like the original wild birds. I believe they lay few eggs - some people keep chickens for pets just because they like them! Why shouldn't we have different breeds? Only when deformities and health problems become a part of the breed characteristics, as in some breeds of dog.

If your chickens lay plenty of unfertilised eggs, you will note that they mostly can't be bothered to brood them, so you are not disturbing their maternal instincts by taking them.

2:50AM PDT on Sep 24, 2013

never thought of it that way

1:47PM PDT on Aug 7, 2013

I really do think country people live in the real world and the city folk just do not realise animals
are animals and not human with human mentality.

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