Secondhand Stories is a non-profit sanctuary that provides a loving forever home to 13 rescued chickens. We aim to provide a sanctuary where our rescued chickens can: live out their natural lives in peace; be free from exploitation and suffering; and have fulfilled and enriched experiences while living at the sanctuary.
One of the most common questions we get as a chicken sanctuary is “What do you do with their eggs?”. Before I can answer what we do, let’s get into the who, when, where, and why of it all.
The History of Laying Hens
Once upon a time, a Red Junglefowl would lay about 20 eggs a year. Fast forward to modern farming. Chicken hatcheries selectively breed hens for their egg-laying and genetically modify them to encourage as much production as possible. Modern domesticated laying hens will often lay an egg every 24 hours, producing up to 365 eggs a year.
Harms of Egg Production
The toll on laying hens’ bodies is distressingly apparent, with up to 90% of mortality attributed to reproductive diseases. The consequences of egg overproduction are severe and often fatal. In our short 18 months of rescuing chickens, we’ve lost 4 beautiful girls to reproductive diseases. Peggy to egg yolk peritonitis, Betsie to reproductive tract cancer, and Emily & June each to prolapses.
Sadly, these girls are still lucky, comparatively. The stark reality is that most laying hens in the egg industry are slaughtered at a mere 18 months of age once their egg production slows down. Yet, well-cared-for laying hens with preventative veterinary care can live upwards of 10 years old.
Chicken Birth Control? One way our sanctuary tries to decrease our hens' reproductive stress is by getting Suprelorin implants which pause the egg-laying cycle! Stay tuned for a separate blog on these implants!
One of the most infuriating things (among many) we’ve faced as a sanctuary, trying to provide life-long and sustaining care for our chickens, is how guidance is focused on increasing production rather than long-term health. This is never more prominent than in trying to figure out their diet. We know they need a balanced diet of grains, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. However, the research available is focused on production value.
The Merck Veterinary Manual admits that “criteria used to determine the requirement for a given nutrient are primarily related to production (eg, growth, feed efficiency, egg production), prevention of deficiency symptoms, and quality of poultry products.”
The Egg Farmers of Canada proudly states that chickens “ need a diet that allows them to do their job efficiently”. Wait, chickens have jobs?! Just kidding.
Feed regulations for chickens set by the CFIA state that feed used in Canada can contain a small amount of animal by-products. So chickens eating chickens.
Since we know egg production harms our girls and their feed isn’t always adequate what do we do?
We feed the chickens their eggs.
Simply put, the chickens need them and we don’t.
Every time one of our girls lays an egg she also loses about 2 mg of calcium that is stored in her bones. Laying hens are prone to weak or broken bones, osteoporosis, and sometimes even paralysis. The lack of calcium is also very dangerous in making the shells of their eggs weak. The easiest way to replenish that calcium is to crush the eggshells and feed them to the hens!
Eggs also are high in protein (but hey, humans can get more nutrient-dense protein from tofu, almonds, and black beans). Because feathers are mostly made up of protein they must have enough in their diet.
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