CHICKEN / HEN CAGES (AKA. BATTERY CAGES, BARREN BATTERY CAGES, ENRICHED BATTERY CAGES)
Perhaps the most disgusting and sinister method of raising poultry has got to be the cage also referred to as the battery cage or the barren battery cage or the new type enriched battery cage.
Generally cages are rows of small mesh boxes stuffed with chickens and stacked on top of each other.
As the cages are stacked, the chickens unlucky enough to be on the bottom row get pooped on by all the chickens above.
In 1990 it was estimated that 75% of the world’s egg laying birds were kept in cages.
In the USA, 95% of all egg layers were kept in cages.
While there is no standard size cage, the minimum amount of floor space required per chicken in the United States is 67 inches squared (430 cm squared). This is about 2/3 the size of a piece of legal paper (8 1/2″ x 11″). In our experience, many cages built for four chickens will actually contain five or even six chickens.
Only one chicken can sit at a time as there is not enough floor space for everyone to sit or sleep.
The egg producers argue that battery cages are the only way to raise hens and make money but that is not true as cages have been banned in almost every European country and some of them have banned battery cages for years. Obviously these producers still make money. In the US it all comes down to keeping the profits high so the “do nothing” type people (shareholders) can make more money at the expense of the comfort of the hens.
It is disgusting and abuse.
Any chickens in a cage will need to be de-beaked or else they will peck other to death. If that doesn’t bother you there is something wrong with you. The benefits of using cages is of course the ease of egg collection, ease of feeding and watering and ability to pack a lot of birds in a small space.
This system of chicken farming requires a lot of electricity as there are automatic feeders, waterers and huge ventilation requirements. Just one large fan typically used in a poultry farm can consume more power than an entire off the grid home. Having the birds packed so tightly makes it absolutely necessary to have massive fans to keep them from overheating and dying. In cold climates there are also needs for massive water deicers and air heaters.
Remember there is a plus side, gathering eggs, feeding and watering is a snap. Simply walk from cage to cage and pick up the eggs sitting in front of you. No searching…no messing around!
Please do not raise chickens in cages. It really is disgusting and abusive.
Some of the reasons we hate battery cages, also known as barren battery cages are the following:
- First and foremost, the hen is unable to perform most if any of their normal daily activities compared to living free range like foraging food, dusting their wings, cleaning themselves, sleeping, roosting, laying eggs in a nest etc.
- Hens beaks must be trimmed using cutters or heat without anesthetic as they become very frustrated in cages and will peck each other (sometimes to death).
- Cages are stacked so the hens in the lower cages are constantly covered in bird poop.
- Hens die (many times unnoticed for days) and begin to rot and cause disease in the entire cage and surrounding cages.
- Farmers almost always place more chickens in each cage than recommended to try and make an extra dollar for their families or investors. Many cages are so packed that only one hen can lay down at a time to sleep or rest.
- Commercial hens are bred to produce as many eggs as possible. This leads to calcium depletion. This calcium depletion is exacerbated by the fact that a bird is unable to get any exercise in a barren battery cage. Calcium depletion often leads to broken legs which can be painful and never get repaired. As long as the hen keeps producing the farmer has no reason to euthanize it.
We only mention cages as they are one method of raising your own eggs. We DO NOT endorse them!
We also do not promote the use of the so-called “enriched chicken cage”.
Enriched cages were the European Union’s answer to battery cages to try and appease the animal rights activists. Although they do have nest boxes, are a little bigger, perches, litters and claw shortening devices, they are just another cage where the hens are confined and unable to live a normal life. This method of raising hens is not banned in the EU sadly enough.
We do not hate commercial farmers and do not expect them to spend millions of dollars overnight to make life better for their hens but they could start heading in the right direction and at the very least switch to commercial free range. But as a homesteader we could not imagine you wanting to raise your own food using the above methods.
As a solar homesteader, cages are not great as there is a lot of energy required to keep chicken alive in the cages. Without massive ventilation fans the birds will over heat and die. These fans can consume more electricity than our entire house.
As promised in the Raising Chickens for Beginners page here are the ratings for raising chickens in battery cages.
- CLEANLINESS – HORRIBLE
- FEED QUALITY – POOR
- HEALTH – POOR
- HAPPINESS – HORRIBLE
- COST – EXCELLENT
- LABOR – GOOD
- ELECTRICITY – POOR