I’m sure many readers have seen or read the horror stories over the years about battery hens, and the horrible conditions in which some of these animals live.
Things have got better over the years, certainly in Europe and the UK. However, you don’t have to do too much digging to find horrible conditions in pretty much every Western country. The Third World is a horror show. My experience living in Canada for a time suggested that most people just don’t care about animal welfare. They care about price. Now I understand that. I’m a capitalist unabashedly. However, if it’s a question of paying a little more for real free range eggs why not do it? I also think if you’re going to eat an animal, you should make its life as good as you can before you kill it. Until recently, we bought our eggs from a farm where you can literally walk by and see the hens running round.
That’s until recently as I said. What happened? Well I bit the bullet in March and bought four Warren laying hens. Warrens are a cross of Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds. Currently, they all lay once a day. So I have a guaranteed supply of proper free range chickens. They are running around in the garden right now.
Is it easy keeping them? It’s about the same as having a dog. You have to let them out of their coop in the morning…early and tuck them in at night. We have to worry about foxes where I live so they need to be locked in every night. Cleaning their run is a chore because they are poop machines. One hen at the moment is having trouble laying which means some intervention to help her get the egg out. That’s not fun.
That said, it’s a small price to pay to know where your eggs are coming from. I can say much the same about our butcher since he lists the local farms where he gets his meat from. The beef, for instance, comes from a farm about three miles from my house.
Also, hens have other bonuses. I never thought it possible, but you grow attached to them because chickens are actually quite friendly and silly. They do funny things like peck at my shoes or make little cooing noises when they see me in the morning.
So if you’ve got the space and your local government allows it, I’d consider some hens.