From Egg Farm to my Backyard


Brown leghorns we got from the cramped cages of an egg farm.

My chicken coop out back had been home to six chickens before three of them died. On Friday, we replaced those three by transplanting three chickens from a nearby egg factory.

This is the kind of egg farm that’s been outlawed by California Proposition 2. Chickens there are confined in rows of cages that allow them to lay eggs, but not do much else. Unfortunately, Prop 2 was written by a committee of fools and it’s still being challenged in court for being unworkably vague.

My new hens are brown leghorns that are past their egg-laying prime. That’s why the farmer wanted to sell them. But they will still lay enough to satisfy my needs for a few years, so I adopted them. You might say I rescued them, in the way some people rescue retired racing dogs. If these hens hadn’t been sold to me, they would have probably gone to make chicken soup.

The girls show their history in many ways. Being crammed into small cages caused them to lose a lot of feathers by constantly rubbing against steel wire. Most noticeably, the fronts of their necks are bare from reaching into a deep metal food trough. Their beaks were trimmed to make them less “peckish.”

They are now in a backyard chicken coop where hens lay eggs and roost. My chickens descend into an enclosed run in the morning, and wander around my property in the afternoon when we decide to open up the door to the run. But the factory hens are unaccustomed to going anywhere.

So far, they are alarmed by the sheer spaciousness of their new quarters. They gingerly lift and replace their feet, as if they think the ground might swallow them up. They seem to have learned how to feed and drink, and they are beginning to peck at the ground. They follow the native birds into the coop at night, but they haven’t yet used the roosting bars.

One thing I will say for them: They are producing eggs. Over the past two days we’ve gotten two from the three new chickens. They’re not so traumatized that their bodily functions have been put on hold.

The farmer who sold them said moving them to a new environment might cause some “mortality.” So far so good. If one or two of them do die… well, they’re just chickens. But I hope they survive and I hope they have a couple more years of egg laying in them. I also hope their feathers come back and they start to look more like the handsome hens we have already.

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One Comment on “From Egg Farm to my Backyard”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    It doesn’t sound like you rescued them, it sounds like you are USING them. If one or two of them die, it’s because you didn’t care for them properly. They aren’t JUST chickens. They are sentient beings who have a right to life.

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