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"I am a battery hen. I live in a cage so small I cannot stretch my wings. I am forced to stand night and day on a sloping wire-mesh floor that painfully cuts into my feet. The cage walls tear my feathers, forming blood blisters that never heal. The air is so full of ammonia that my lungs hurt and my eyes burn and I think I am going blind. As soon as I was born, a man grabbed me and sheared off part of my beak with a hot iron, and my little brothers were thrown, alive, into trash bags as useless waste.
My mind is alert and my body is sensitive and I should have been richly feathered. In nature or even a farmyard I would have had sociable, cleansing dust baths with my flock mates, a need so strong that I perform 'vacuum' dust bathing on the wire floor of my cage. Free, I would have ranged my ancestral jungles and fields with my mates, devouring plants, earthworms, and insects from sunrise to dusk. I would have exercised my body and expressed my nature, and I would have given, and received, pleasure as a whole being. I am only a year old, but I am already a 'spent hen.'
Humans, I wish I were dead, and soon I will be dead. Look for pieces of my wounded flesh wherever chicken pies and soups are sold."
From Karen Davis, PhD, "Thinking Like a Chicken: Farm Animals and the Feminine Connection," Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 1995.
The Life of a Battery Hen
The battery hen lives for a maximum of two years. During these two years, she spends the vast majority of her time standing on thin, sloping wire which has a crippling effect on her sensitive feet and that of her three to seven other cage mates. Each hen within the cage has personal space equivalent to an A4 piece of paper. One battery shed will contain row upon row of cages such as these and can ‘house’ up to 60,000 hens.
The battery hen will breathe heavy ammonia and the stench of excrement continually with no reprieve. She will spend most of her existence in darkness so that her and her fellow hens frustrations and hysteria will be subdued (to a degree). She has also been de-beaked as a young chick, to prevent her from attacking her companions in boredom and frustration, for the life of a battery hen is the epitome of frustration. On the battery farm, she is denied what is her basic right as a living sentient creature; the expression of her natural behaviours. She cannot dust-bath, scratch in the dirt, stretch her wings, perch or have a moment of privacy for a single second in which to lay her eggs.
She will undoubtedly suffer severe feather loss and skin abrasions due to constantly rubbing against her wire cage and the other hens which are crammed inside the cage alongside her.
She will have brittle bones which break easily because her body is pushed to it's limit in order to produce many more eggs than it would naturally, so that humans may indulge their gluttony. This constant egg production drains the calcium from her body and she may develop Osteoporosis.
The farmer will further manipulate her body, already bred for maximum laying capacity, through forced moulting, where she will be subjected to semi or total starvation for a period of time in a final attempt to get her to produce yet more eggs before she is truly ‘spent’ and ready for the slaughter house. Highly automated lighting and temperature control systems are also used to manipulate her body for maximum productivity.
When the farmer has squeezed every last egg from her overused and abused body, the battery hen is then dragged from her cage by her feet. She and the thousands of other ‘spent’ hens on the farm are shoved into small plastic crates. These crates are then loaded onto the backs of trucks and the hens begin their journey to the slaughter house, during which they are completely exposed to the elements; the blistering cold or the sweltering heat.
When she and her companions arrive, they will be roughly pulled from their crates, shackled onto a mechanical conveyor belt by their feet and sent to their deaths. This involves being dragged through a tank of electrified water, passing though a mechanical blade which slits their throats, then moving along the conveyor belt to the scalding tank which neatly removes their feathers and finally to the processing area where their bodies are chopped up and dismembered, in order to be made into pet food, soup or stock cubes, as that’s about all a spent battery hen is good for.