The Trouble with Backyard Chickens

The backyard chicken movement is gaining a lot of momentum, but those home-grown hens may not be as humane as you think.

When you compare your backyard hens to the horrific images we see of factory farming operations, you probably can’t imagine anything more humane than buying a few baby chicks to raise for eggs. Your chickens eat healthy feed and food scraps, they run freely around your backyard, you hug them and consider them part of the family. Keeping chickens feels very warm and fuzzy.

The main trouble with backyard chickens is really the same problem that the egg industry has in general: male chickens don’t lay. That means that when you get your chirping box of sweet baby chicks, most – if not all – of the males from that brood were slaughtered because they’re useless as far as egg-laying goes. About 50 percent of the chicks that hatch are male, so for every female chick running around in your backyard a male was killed, often not in the most humane way (if you believe that you can kill anything humanely).

Keeping chickens also doesn’t mean you’re totally opting out of industrial farming. Unless you do a lot of research and find an organic or free-range farm or rescue your chickens from a shelter or animal sanctuary, chances are those chicks’ mommas lived in the very battery cages you’re trying to avoid.

There’s also the question of what to do with your chickens when they’re too old to lay. The folks I know who keep chickens consider their hens as family pets, and I could totally see them keeping their hens as companions. That’s not always the case, though.  Older hens often end up in animal sanctuaries, if they’re lucky, and shelters where they’ll soon be euthanized, if they’re not.

These are some of the reasons that vegans avoid not just backyard eggs but all eggs. While hens don’t directly suffer or die to produce eggs for people to eat, there are hidden costs and cruelties that are a little bit tough to stomach.

What’s Wrong With Backyard Eggs?
The Dark Side of Urban Farming
What is an Egg to a Chicken?


Pamela W.
.4 years ago

My neighbour's chickens (where I get my eggs from) have all the space, care and protection they need and they're very well looked-after. Their eggs are superb and I'd never go back to shop-bought ones !

Kate S.
Kate S5 years ago

I appreciate the article. You forgot a lot of other troubles that can surround the flock...predetors, being "tied" to the home (unless your lucky enough to have chicken-sitters let them out in the morning and tuck them in the coop at night, check their feed and water in between). I can go on... but I won't. I see the MAIN reason the article is written.

Marti A.
Marti R5 years ago

I think the author has taken a very negative view. I can't save every chicken in the country but my chickens are very well taken care of and I will keep them for their natural lives. That's the best I personally can do.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga5 years ago

poor animals

Bill and Katie D.
Katie & Bill D5 years ago

Yes if 50% of the chicks that hatch are male, trade or sell some! If they give you problems because some are mean get rid of them and get others! You will learn and be comfortable! they are also fryers so you should be able to sell some for food! Some people like to put them away in the freezer too! Make some money from the ones you don't need! It buys the feed for the rest!

Joy S.
Joy s6 years ago

I take the roosters that hatch to the chicken sale.

Berty Jardine
Berty Jardine6 years ago

Oh...The roosters can be caponized (testicles removed) and they will not crow

Berty Jardine
Berty Jardine6 years ago

I have an eight year old hen (yes she's been crowing for a year) that still gives us at least 5 eggs a week. You cannot tell me that they stop after two years.

James Fisher

Well chuck me. chuuuuk chuck chuck chuck achuckerk! Well a little message in chucky chuck for all the chicken fans out there!

Tierney G.
Tierney G6 years ago

There is a bit more humane way to do this. Buy Bantams smaller chickens that produce slightly smaller yet very tasty eggs. They usually sell as a straight run meaning that they are unsexed so you will get both male and female chicks. I did this and now I have 6 roosters! I love them to death but they do crow a lot. I live in a rural area so it is not a problem with neighbors or anything just the many predators around and they may (roosters) need separating if the space is too small. (territorial and will fight in cramped conditions).
Like I said in another comment here adopt chickens hens or roosters from a sanctuary or local shelter. Homes are usually always needed somewhere.