Caged, barn, free-range and organic egg producers all purchase their layer hens from the same hatcheries. Half of the chicks born in these hatcheries are males who are surplus to the egg industry (and not genetically suitable for raising for meat) and are therefore disposed of in horrific ways, including being thrown live into machines that grind them up or into large bins where they either starve or suffocate to death.
Females become layer hens. At a young age their sensitive beaks are cut with a hot blade to stop them pecking one another because they are kept in overcrowded conditions. This includes those that carry the “free-range” label (a classification that means the birds are permitted limited access outdoors). In addition to the harsh living conditions, the hens are genetically designed to be enormously productive layers, which is severely detrimental to their health.
Since layer hens are not as productive after two years, they are sent to slaughter at that time. The egg industry relies heavily on the routine mass slaughter of animals to be economically feasible.
Robert Grillo runs the website Free from Harm and has specialist knowledge of chicken physiology and behaviour. To find out more about how to help chickens no longer wanted by the egg industry, and the most ethical choices for using ex-farmed chickens’ eggs, see: