The Naked Scientists

The Naked Scientists Forum

Author Topic: Are free range chickens happier?  (Read 5502 times)

Offline Eric A. Taylor

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 447
  • I before E except after C, unless weird science
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« on: 23/12/2010 08:30:05 »
Had a discussion with a hippie friend of mine. She told me she only buys eggs from free range chickens, they are quite a lot more expensive than conventional eggs.

I made the point that chickens kept in small closed cages might be happier because they feel safer. Chickens are prey birds and when in the open are vulnerable to predictors like foxes, bobcats and birds of prey.

One thing any chicken farmer will tell you. Unhappy chickens don't lay. A chicken farmer wants to get as many eggs as possible from his birds. That means keeping his birds safe, comfortable and happy.

So is it really more humane to spend the extra money on free range chicken eggs?


 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #1 on: 23/12/2010 09:54:09 »
Did your friend ever go visit this "free range farm" to see what it was like?

It is difficult to say what makes a chicken happy or sad.  I suppose one could tell if the bird was in pain.

Certainly there would be benefits of supporting small farms and small businesses. 

Truthfully, "factory" chicken farming is intense.  And...  there is a reason why your farm-fresh eggs may have blood spots, and your store eggs don't.  Is that a sign of happiness?

But, the factory chickens would be content in the environment where they are born and raised.  And, wouldn't know what to do in any other environment.

As far as laying eggs...  the birds were bred to lay about an egg a day.  It has nothing to do with happiness, although perhaps they would have interruptions under extreme stress.
 

Offline Mazurka

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 510
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #2 on: 23/12/2010 13:12:32 »
Whilst there is a big danger of anthropomorphising; battery chickens do have a tendency to display signs of stress, such as pecking away at their own feathers and aggression.  They are also more prone to disease, so are routinely medicated.  The smallest battery cages are being phased out in Europe due to concerns about wellfare.

 

SteveFish

  • Guest
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #3 on: 23/12/2010 19:06:59 »
I have raised my own chickens for many years. The eggs and chickens taste noticeably better and allowing them to forage greatly reduces their food bill. I have no way of knowing about chicken happiness, but they certainly look happier in their little flock pecking and scratching, and they certainly make me happier watching them, they are such silly birds.
 

Offline Variola

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 1063
  • Everyone should beware of The Pox...
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #4 on: 23/12/2010 20:40:26 »
I have raised my own chickens for many years. The eggs and chickens taste noticeably better and allowing them to forage greatly reduces their food bill. I have no way of knowing about chicken happiness, but they certainly look happier in their little flock pecking and scratching, and they certainly make me happier watching them, they are such silly birds.

Have you ever tried hypnotizing them? I would like to keep chickens purely to do that.


Honestly, that would keep me entertained for hours....! :)
 

Offline QuantumClue

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 613
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #5 on: 23/12/2010 21:59:55 »
I think it is general consensus that chickens are happier in free ranges. Chickens are highly social animals, which are capable of recognizing each other. Based on this, I doubt a caged chicken is truely happier.
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 447
  • I before E except after C, unless weird science
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #6 on: 24/12/2010 00:33:10 »
Did your friend ever go visit this "free range farm" to see what it was like?

It is difficult to say what makes a chicken happy or sad.  I suppose one could tell if the bird was in pain.

Certainly there would be benefits of supporting small farms and small businesses. 

Truthfully, "factory" chicken farming is intense.  And...  there is a reason why your farm-fresh eggs may have blood spots, and your store eggs don't.  Is that a sign of happiness?

But, the factory chickens would be content in the environment where they are born and raised.  And, wouldn't know what to do in any other environment.

As far as laying eggs...  the birds were bred to lay about an egg a day.  It has nothing to do with happiness, although perhaps they would have interruptions under extreme stress.

Store bought eggs don't have blood spots because they are taken out in quality control. I have seen bloody eggs rarely though.
 

SteveFish

  • Guest
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #7 on: 24/12/2010 02:01:51 »
Variola, yes I tried the hypnosis thing but couldn't get it to work. Otherwise, there is no problem with eating the small blood spot in eggs. Steve
 

Offline Geezer

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 8328
  • "Vive la résistance!"
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #8 on: 24/12/2010 05:12:23 »
I have extensive experience with raising free range chickens. We actually had three of them when we lived in Arizona. They seemed to be quite happy. They were smart too. When it got too hot outside, they would sneak into the house and hang out in the bath tub behind the shower curtain.

On one occasion, one of them (I think it was Phoebe) cut her claw on something. Mrs G, being a nurse, stepped into action and applied a bandaid. In a few days, the claw was good as new.

One of the major problems though was that they were so happy that they laid an awful lot of eggs (and jolly good they were too), and one of their favorite spots to lay them was in the middle of one of the many cacti that we had, so every day turned into a bit of a prickly Easter Egg hunt. Also, as it tended to get a bit warm during the day, if you didn't get them into the fridge PDQ, the tended to get a bit cooked in the Sun.

I've no idea if any of this is remotely relevant to the thread of course, but I thought some of you might find it mildly entertaining.
 

Offline CliffordK

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6321
  • Thanked: 3 times
  • Site Moderator
    • View Profile
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #9 on: 24/12/2010 06:08:40 »
You know, I certainly wouldn't want to live in a box...  (is my house a box?) 

One thing to keep in mind though.

A lab rat (ok, a bit different animal than a chicken)...   but lab rats are very well cared for.  They are given clean pens, no worries about predators, or when their next meal will come.  Climate Controlled Temperatures, etc.  And euthanasia is likely less torturous than starving to death, dying of disease, poisons, or being stuck in a trap which may or may not be quick.

Chicken factories, however, may not be as clean, organized, or even give the animal as much space as the typical university lab gives its rats.

But, the chickens themselves may not be in a significant amount of duress.

Years ago I caught a wild Golden Eagle with a broken wing.  I'll tell you it was a bit intimidating to catch a large bird of prey in the wild.  But, as soon as I covered its eyes, and wrapped it up, it fell asleep as calm as anything.  It didn't even struggle.

Perhaps a chicken cage would offer a sense of security to the chicken.

As far as range/wild hens, frequently they will choose to lay their eggs in very enclosed areas (squeezed between bales of hay).  Even wild birds often choose very sheltered areas for their nests.
 

Offline Don_1

  • Neilep Level Member
  • ******
  • Posts: 6890
  • Thanked: 7 times
  • A stupid comment for every occasion.
    • View Profile
    • Knight Light Haulage
Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #10 on: 24/12/2010 08:04:12 »
I think most butchers and chefs will tell you that the colour and quality of the flesh of a genuinely free ranging animal will be better than the rather insipid colour of one raised in a factory environment.

Personally, I don't agree with the argument that battery chickens are happy because they feel safe. That's just battery farming justification for their methods. They really should just admit that the suppliers could not match the demand but for battery raised birds. Also, the general public would be taken aback by the price of a genuine free range bird and its eggs.
 

The Naked Scientists Forum

Are free range chickens happier?
« Reply #10 on: 24/12/2010 08:04:12 »

 

SMF 2.0.10 | SMF © 2015, Simple Machines
SMFAds for Free Forums
 
Login
Login with username, password and session length