Many backyard poultry keepers want to know how to raise chickens for eggs ethically. There is a growing awareness in America of the disturbing practices on large factory farms. Indeed, it is the desire not to participate in this harmful system that leads many of us to keep our own hens. If that is your intention, then you should learn how to raise laying hens respectfully.
How to Raise Chickens for Eggs Ethically: What it Means
There are many perspectives on the morality of keeping farm animals. For me, learning how to raise laying hens ethically means educating myself about all aspects of chicken care and acting appropriately.
How to Raise Laying Hens without Supporting Factory Farms
If you keep backyard chickens you may be supporting commercial farming unintentionally. Here are some choices you can make to start turning your backyard coop into an ethical source of eggs:
Keep Heritage Breeds
When you are first learning how to raise chickens for eggs at home you will read about specialized breeds which produce 250 or 300 eggs a year. Instead of purchasing over bred birds, keep a heritage breed like the critically endangered Russian Orloff. They lay eggs consistently year round, are cold hardy and produce nice meat. Black Jersey Giants are another heritage breed that lays abundant, large eggs. Heritage breeds are often the best laying hens for backyard farmers.
Buy Chicks Locally
Where do your chicks come from? Do you know how chickens are kept at the hatchery? Order chicks from a small farm that fully discloses its practices. Better yet, get naturally brooded chicks from a neighbor.
Don’t Use Artificial Lights
Many articles about how to raise chickens for eggs encourage you to use artificial lighting to keep a hen laying all year round. This deprives her of the rest she needs to molt and replenish her body. Part of raising laying hens ethically is being respectful of their natural cycles. You may get fewer eggs each year, but your flock will be healthier and stay productive longer.
Cherish Broody Hens
As you are learning how to raise laying hens you will be confronted with the broody hen. She is often considered a nuisance because she lays few eggs. Yet broodiness is natural in chickens and is necessary if you want to breed your own chicks. With modern breeds it can be nearly impossible to find a broody hen because the tendency has been bred out of them. The offspring from a broody chicken are more likely to be good mothers themselves. If you get a broody hen, give her some eggs to hatch and take good care of her. She is the key to making your poultry endeavor sustainable.
Figuring out how to raise chickens for eggs ethically will be a long and personal process. These are just a few ideas to help you get started. Ethical chicken farming also involves proper feeding, housing and ranging opportunities.
To learn more about cage free and free range commercial chicken raising, check out this article.
Large scale farmers in Australia are learning how to raise chickens for eggs more naturally by using chicken caravans.