Take a Moment, or a Month, to Appreciate Chickens

This is what chicken wings are really for: cuddling their babies.

International Respect for Chickens Day is May 4th. In fact, all of May is International Respect for Chickens Month. Yes, respect for chickens. They actually deserve it.

Chickens are affectionate, social animals who protect each other fiercely. I saw an example when I visited a group of hens and a rooster at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. When the rooster found a nearby noise threatening, he got right up and made an impressive racket. Anyone who wanted to get to his family would have to go through him.

Karen Davis, founder of United Poultry Concerns, tells a story of a mother, Eva, protecting her chicks from a dog. “With her wings outspread and curved menacingly toward the dog, she rushed at him over and over, cackling loudly, all the while continuing to push her chicks behind herself with her wings.” The dog left, but Eva remained vigilant until she was sure the beast was gone.

Ruby adopted Ivy, an unrelated chicken rescued from a pile of manure and decomposing chickens outside a Perdue shed. Photo Credit: United Poultry Concerns

More than anything, Davis has found that ”chickens are cheerful birds, quite vocally so.” Lavanya Sunkara of Petside.com observed the same thing at the Woodstock Sanctuary: “chickens just want to run around and have fun.” They dustbathe, sunbathe, peck and scratch the ground looking for food, and snuggle up with their friends.

When chickens are depressed, they express it with “their entire being,” Davis says. “The fact that chickens become lethargic in continuously barren environments, instead of proving that they are stupid or impassive by nature, shows how sensitive these birds are to their surroundings, deprivations and prospects.”

Hundreds of millions of chickens have plenty to be depressed about. As I’ve described elsewhere, egg-laying chickens are crammed so tightly into “battery cages” that they cannot even spread their wings or lie down. Poultry producers save space at the birds’ expense to maximize the number of eggs they can collect per square inch.

The chickens stand on wire mesh that cuts into their feet; sometimes their toes grow around the wire. The walls of the cage rub their feathers off and cause blood blisters. With no outlet to express their natural urges to dust bathe and to peck at the ground, birds peck at and injure each other. Most have the ends of their beaks seared off as chicks in a painful, mutilating procedure intended to prevent this pecking.

The concentration of their waste, which collects on the floor beneath the rows and rows of cages, emits so much ammonia that it sickens the birds, hurting their lungs and making their eyes burn. They never see the sun or feel a breeze, and they never form the family groups that wild chickens create instinctively.

While female chicks are having their beaks burned off, male chicks are losing their lives. A few of them are kept to reproduce the breed, but most are killed immediately in one of a number of ways, including tossing one atop another in garbage bags to suffocate each other to death and throwing them live into grinders. They are useless to factory farm owners because raising them for their meat is not cost-effective. Chickens raised for meat have been carefully bred to grow enormous chests and thighs shockingly fast (with the result that their legs cannot support their weight and they often cannot walk). Chickens used for egg production have been carefully bred to produce as many eggs as possible. The males of the egg-laying breed would not yield enough meat to earn their keep, earning instead a death sentence.

Davis reports that chickens can live for more than 30 years. In factory farm conditions, their egg production drops off and they are slaughtered at around one year of age. After an excruciating journey to the slaughterhouse that kills many of them, the birds are hung upside down and their heads are dragged through electrically charged water. The ones who aren’t rendered unconscious get to experience their necks being sliced open to bleed them, and then being scalded to facilitate plucking.

Approximately 280 million hens raised for their eggs and 280 million male chicks are slaughtered each year in the United States.

United Poultry Concerns started International Respect for Chickens Day and Month in 2005. “Our message is simple. Be kind to chickens. Don’t eat them. Discover the variety of all-vegetarian, vegan foods and cooking ideas. Tell your family and friends how much chickens suffer in industrial farming and how cheerful and loving chickens are when they are treated with compassion and respect.”

So consider laying off the chicken wings and the McNuggets today, or all month. You can get started with the Vegetarian Starter Kit. Some very respectable animals will be better off for it.


Related Stories:

Horrific Conditions for Factory Farmed Chickens Exposed

Chickens Feel Empathy, Why Can’t We?

Guess What Drugs and Illegal Substances Are Showing Up in Chicken?

Photo Credit: Topinambour


Carole R.
Carole R5 years ago

Thanks for the post.

Debbie Wood
Debbie Wood5 years ago

I am totally against how chickens are raised in factory farms. It is not neccesary and I would think it would be unsanitary as well. I raise chickens, they are "my girls" although I also have a rooster. They have a good life, good food, a good house and yard to run around in, live peacefully with my feral cat colony, who ignore them. Lyn R. they raise chickens that big by selective breeding. There are breeds that have been created just for large breasts and legs. Some of them can't even breed on their own anymore. Some can't stand because of their weight. Same with broad breasted turkeys. Wild turkeys don't have that kind of build. They also give alot of harmones and antibiotics to many of the chickens that end up on dinner tables. I raise older, unspoiled breeds of chickens that have few of the health issues these large breeds have. Mine lay brown eggs, and colored eggs. The chickens the Aztecs raised were Aracanas, lay blue and green eggs. I also have Rhode Island Reds and a few other brown egg layers. They are intelligent, fun birds, love to play, just dangle a string in front of them and they will chase and pull on it!

Lyn Romaine
Lyn Romaine5 years ago

I stopped eating KFC''S chicken a few years ago when I found out how they tortured and killed their chickens. And where as I have not heard anything about Church's Chicken I stopped eating them ages ago as well because they were the biggest chickens I had ever seen. I didn't know then what I know now about how the farmers force feed the chickens to make them grow to the size that they are. There is just no accounting for the ravages if man's avaricious greed!!!

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers5 years ago

Thank you.

Janis K.
Janis K5 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.5 years ago

I wouldn't have read this article last thing at night if I'd realised what shocking cruelty it describes!
I like chickens, so I only buy free range eggs and have stopped eating chicken.

Actually I don't think all the male chicks are killed so horribly, because owl rescue centres and the like feed birds on dead day-old chicks that are intact. Beyond this...I don't want to think about it...

Freedom for chickens! They all deserve to live free range!

Dale Overall

Sabine D., you can certainly have cats and chickens around...the seven cats that owned us watched as the chickens boldly raid chicken cat food right out of their dishes..The chickens also circled the dog's food bowls and raided at will. It the dogs were not overly hungry they would play chicken with the chickens, allow them to pilfer a bit of food and then give chase, ate their food and allowed the chickens to make another pilfering run...it could go on for well over an hour.

Factory farming is not useful in any way, overcrowded and toxic for all involved. Only organic free range chickens are truly healthy the sames for organic veggies.

If one does not wish to eat chickens, that is fine, but until Mother Nature redesigns our DNA so that we can be sustained on rock pate, then we all feed on death, be it veggies or chickens. One may say plants do not feel pain but who are humans to determine what life form is edible while another is not? Nature designed us to eat what was living at one time.

Clarinda K.
Clarinda Karpov6 years ago

Please go to Farm Sanctuary, https://secure2.convio.net/fsi/site/Advocacy?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=403&autologin=true&JServSessionIdr004=isf6onper7.app209b and ask Congress to support the "Egg Bill," to free hundreds of millions of laying hens from battery cages (so cruel that they have been banned in the European Union, California, and Michigan). Egg producers, animal lovers, and consumers alike back this bill, which is a win-win for everybody, the hens most of all. This is a wonderful opportunity to relieve untold suffering and do good; please click to phone or e-mail Congress. Thank you!

Help Hens: Call Your Members of Congress Today - Farm Sanctuary


The first federal act in 30 years to help factory farmed animals will free hens from barren battery cages and create more information for consumers and greater protection for farmed animals.

Virginia G.

how any civilized human can hurt, kill or eat a fowl or an egg is absolutely beyond me. I truly don't understand how we can still be such savages in 2012!

Lynne Brittany
Lynne B6 years ago

Hi, Sabina D, the hens will let your cats know who is boss and it's not the cats. I had 4 cats and 4 hens and hens certainly ruled the roost. They would sit outside the cat flap and not let the cats out sometimes, they taught themselves to push open the cat flap and cluck for treats.