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Caged Chickens Study

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

I apologize if this topic has been brought up before. I don't frequent this particular forum very often since I don't raise chickens myself. However, I just read a story online about the US Dept. of Agriculture commissioning a study on whether stuffing chickens into small cages makes them miserable. I know that I'd be miserable if I were stuffed in a cage, but I'd be curious to hear what others who actually raise chickens think of the issue.

Another thing that I found interesting was that the article kept referring to the people that raise these chickens as "producers" rather than "farmers".

Here's a link to the story:

Richmond, TX

I'm pretty sure you will hear an unanimous opinion here that caged chickens are probably miserable. Some breeds are known to tolerate "confinement" better than others, but my free range hens are always busy, actively foraging and poking their beaks into everything. I am certain they would be very unhappy in a cage. It is true that the factory hens don't know any other life, but let them out for an hour and I bet they'd never willingly go back!

Lodi, United States

I think, since the movement of agriculture away from "family farms" toward massive agri-business and corporate controlled ventures (and, yes, I am part of it) the concept of "farmer" has been relegated to a quaint footnote.

Individual "farmers" of crops in the Central Valley of CA own or lease huge tracts of land and are not called farmers, but "growers" by the Industry. Likewise, people or companies do not have farms that raise meat, dairy or egg animals--but instead run large commerical agricultural business that "produce" the end product--meat, milk or eggs, without any real human interaction with individual animals.

There are hidden costs with this (see Michael Pollan's "The Omnivores' Dilemma") but...

It is very efficient.

Ferndale, WA

Hi Gardensox: You may not frequent this forum, but you are surely welcome, and I like your question.

Personally I agree with PorkPal 100% If you observe caged chickens for very long you also would reach the conclusion not only that it is cruel but distastful to watch. Chickens love to dust bathe, now do they do that in cages? Chickens love to explore, how do they do that in cages? Chickens love to exercise, flap their wings and stretch frequently, how do they get to do that in cages? Chickens do not like living in their own fecies but often have to in cages. The reason I belong to this forum is because my family here love's their chickens and house them in ways that shows respect and concern for these wonderful feathered friends. Haystack...I'm glad you asked.

Richmond, TX

- And Haystack does know how to house chickens! (His are so happy that they are laying up a storm while the rest of us are whining about egglessness.)

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

Thanks for the warm welcome and all the replies, everyone.

Catscan - actually, I am currently reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" so maybe I'm paying more attention to these issues than I used to. Since I haven't finished the book yet I'm trying to hold off on making any decisions . . . but two things have occured to me so far: 1.) I think I'm now willing to pay more for food than I used to and 2.) I need to trying growing/farming/producing more of the food I eat just so I know what it takes to get food onto a plate. As Pollan wrote, that way I can "eat in full consciousness of everything involved in feeding myself."

Ferndale, WA

WOW GardenSox! You have really impressed me. What a great response, and what a great measure of responsibility. Seriously i'm impressed, and I always love the infor we get from Catsy. She is dynamite. I also am going to read that book. Thanks Cat and Gardensox. Haystack

Lodi, CA(Zone 9b)

:) This thread was a joy to read. :)

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

GardenSox, I think you'll find you've fallen into a nest of Chicken Advocates. Most of the chickens whose Caretakers frequent this board lead a fine life, however long it may be. I have also been trying to be more self-sufficient, and my chickens are now old enough to contribute:)

As to the confinement question, when I see my chooks explode out of the (very nice and clean and secure) coop in the morning, I have no doubt that they are very happy to be "free". They spend a bit of time with their whole grain breakfast, and then scatter to the winds. Sometimes I don't see some of them (mostly the Turkens) for the rest of the day,and they're the last ones to "coop-up" at night. Some like the pasture (cows are messy eaters in you're quick) and some the woods, and some the wind-piled leaves.
The banties (mostly Silkies and Cochins) stick closer, but that's their choice, and some of them (White Faced Black Spanish) are among the farthest rangers.
I've never had caged chickens, but I imagine it would make me sad.


Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

I've become very interested in raising chickens in the last couple weeks, but I just discovered that my county's ordinances will basically keep me from being able to raise any which is a real bummer.

The primary obstacles/requirements:
10,000 square foot lot size - I would have to check my records, but I think I'm just shy of that.
$4,500 application fee - no, that's not a typo. That's almost five thousand bucks just to apply!
Paying the fee doesn't guarantee the application will be approved.

Richmond, TX

That's California for you!

Lodi, United States

Yup--it is time to join the Chicken Underground, GardenSox....

Ferndale, WA

Sorry but I'd sell the whole state for that. No Catsy not you, just the state...LOL Hay That is when I become a lawbreaker.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

"Chicken Underground" you say . . . sounds thrilling.

How much noise do a few chickens make anyway?

Ferndale, WA

GardenSox! Get the right breed and nobody will know you even have chickens. Just ask Catsy. LOL

Lodi, United States

Black Australorps....very quiet. I'm just saying.....

Ferndale, WA

And I'm totally agreeing.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

And here's a thought;

Too expensive, not really as good as it could be, but sure gives an idea of what can be done....

Everyone should be allowed to have chickens. Not so much a chicken in every pot, but chickens in every yard. It oughtta be a law.

Richmond, TX

The average dog (totally acceptable) is way more obnoxious than any chicken. - Having lots of both I speak form experience.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

I believe chicken factories are torture factories. I also realize that a lot of people think animals, any critter not a Human Being, is a thing that does not think or feel pain. There was a bit of a study recently trying to find out if fish feel pain, disgusting to even consider that someone needs to study this. Very saddening.

I am a scuba diver, and was amazed when the fifteen year old boy said, "It was almost as if the fish was looking at me." They do have eyes, fish do, hello?

I have 'adopted' some wild chickens that come down out of the woods for the cracked corn I give them on the edge of my driveway. They have their own culture, habits, likes and dislikes amongst individuals, and it's a lot of fun watching them in their ways. Hum, maybe I should make a little documentary movie of their antics. There are about thirty in all, traveling in different groups. Hmm, they showed up as one rooster and three hens ten months ago---

Good thread, GardenSox. Thanks for starting this.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

Catscan - Black Australorps? Thanks for the tip! Not that I will ever raise chickens, since it's against my county ordinances (wink, wink) , but I appreciate knowing a breed that wouldn't alert, errrr, I mean that wouldn't "annoy" my neighbors.

Catmad - Thank you for posting that link. $500 does sound pretty steep for a chicken coop, but I like the concept. I think I could even make something like that myself. I'm no master carpenter, but I've got a hammer and a saw.

Molamola - Thanks for the insights. I've also enjoyed this thread. You all have been very welcoming and encouraging to me.

Joplin, MO(Zone 6b)

has anyone considered a building a "childrens" play house, putting lexicon (or wire) sun lights in part of it with it on wheels.. so you can move it around. totally enclosed coop.. with open air tops... you could make it pretty good sized too. looks like a playhouse from the side but is really a chicken coop in disguise. put quiet chickens inside.. & wow.. neighbors can't see or say a thing bc they think they are losing thier minds! o.. & put painted scenes on wood that you cover the window from the inside too.. so nosy neighbors can't see a chicken in the window.

"hmm.. nice playhouse the neighbors have... do you hear chickens? noo can't be.. they aren't allowed & I can't see them."

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

"Those crazy neighbor kids sure do like pretending to be barnyard animals." ^_^

Joplin, MO(Zone 6b)

To be honest I am very grateful that we do not have these problems here. Not that they could really control it if they tried. They do charge us property taxes on "pets" that are not dogs or cats if we get over a certain amount. I just stay under that amount or tell my chickens to hide in the trees when the auditor man comes snooping around. neighbors up the street have a pig.. we all know its theirs, they refuse to admit its theirs.. but it stays at thier house, it showed up when they moved in & they feed it. It also roams the neighborhood. its the size of a small childs electric car & it is black. It likes to be out at night. Maybe those laws would help with this guy.. i'm afraid i'm going to hit him with my car one night. i seriously think the pig will bounce he's so big.. but my poor car is going to be totaled. I'd guess he weighs.. 100lbs easily. but then i'm happy to just watch out for him & not have to hide my chickens from sight.

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

There is a thread here someplace about small, triangular, long, coops that are for moving around.

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

They're called chicken tractors, and lots of people use them. They wouldn't be much use if you're trying to hide anything (not that anyone WOULD), but are pretty good at protecting both chickens and yards/gardens. The concept is that you can move them around to keep them from completely destroying the entire yard.

Here's a few ideas :)

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I'm so glad I live in the country. I have 2 dogs, 1 duck, 21 chickens (4 free range roos), 2 pigs, 3 goats and 4 horses in my yard. I need to downsize. We are going to eat a pig. I'd love to sell the 4 horses. (We have 6 more elsewhere) I'm going to breed my goats for Spring kids. Lots of goat's milk and cheese on the horizon. I'd like to sell my game chickens. I have 3 hens and 2 roos. I'll have to do something with the free ranging roos before Spring. Can't have them in my garden beds.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Chickens most certainly love to free range and would hate being locked up in a cage all their life. How do I know? Well, my hens talk to me and they told me how much they love their freedom!

When we let them out of their exercise pen they come right up and squat down waiting to be petted. They actually line up for a pat on the back. When I'm working on my roses a couple get right up under my legs and scratch and root around "helping me". They have a mind of their own and if you tell them to scram out of the flower bed they "talk" to you......squawking loudly. The louder I get the louder they get. They get me "told" good. :) When I'm sitting at the picnic table by the barn they come up and jump on the seat next to me to just be close. It's amazing how sweet they are.

I'm new to this chicken raising and I've learned so much. I surprised myself at how much I've loved taking care of the hens. We've tried passing this on to our 3 year old granddaughter. She loves to go in the hen house and pick up all the eggs for me. I want her to know where eggs come from and what a chicken looks like. I was raised a "city girl" and didn't have a clue. As a newlywed, my husband brought home a dozen eggs from a man he worked with. I opened the carton and yelled to my husband that the eggs were all rotten. I said they've turned brown. Well, he laughed so hard he about peed his pants. I'd never heard of nor seen a brown egg in my life. That was over 37 years ago. :)

I feel chickens raised the way we're raising ours are not only happier..........they're healthier and give more nutritious eggs. Eating better will in turn make my and my family healthier and a little less dependent on what's being offered at the grocery store. It's all about choice and a better quality of living..........for man and animals.

Oxford, NS(Zone 5b)

I support the Battery Hen Welfare Trust in England. I'm not familiar with an organization of its kind here in the US (although if I wasn't so busy with work and law school, I'd love to start one) but there's lots of interesting and useful information on their site regarding caged hens. Many of the adopted ex-battery hens are nearly featherless when they are adopted. Very sad.

AuGres, MI(Zone 5b)

Meet Real Free-Range Eggs
The new results are in: Eggs from hens allowed to peck on pasture are a heck of a lot better than those from chickens raised in cages!

October/November 2007 By Cheryl Long and Tabitha Alterman
Image GalleryRancho Cappuccino; Lawrence, Kan.

Article Tools
Image GalleryPrintE-mailCommentsRSS Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:

RELATED CONTENT• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

These amazing results come from 14 flocks around the country that range freely on pasture or are housed in moveable pens that are rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh pasture and protect the birds from predators. We had six eggs from each of the 14 pastured flocks tested by an accredited laboratory in Portland, Ore. The chart at the end of this article shows the average nutrient content of the samples, compared with the official egg nutrient data from the USDA for “conventional” (i.e. from confined hens) eggs. The chart lists the individual results from each flock.

The 2007 results are similar to those from 2005, when we tested eggs from four flocks all managed as truly free range. But our tests are not the first to show that pastured eggs are more nutritious — see “Mounting Evidence” below for a summary of six studies that all indicated that pastured eggs are richer in nutrients than typical supermarket eggs.

We think these dramatically differing nutrient levels are most likely the result of the different diets of birds that produce these two types of eggs. True free-range birds eat a chicken’s natural diet — all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms, usually along with grain or laying mash. Factory farm birds never even see the outdoors, let alone get to forage for their natural diet. Instead they are fed the cheapest possible mixture of corn, soy and/or cottonseed meals, with all kinds of additives — see “The Caged Hen’s Diet” below.

The conventional egg industry wants very much to deny that free-range/pastured eggs are better than eggs from birds kept in crowded, inhumane indoor conditions. A statement on the American Egg Board’s Web site says “True free-range eggs are those produced by hens raised outdoors or that have daily access to the outdoors.”

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Being an artist, and learning different methods of painting, I was amazed at the description of "Egg Tempera" paints.

You know how egg yolk can stick to a pan? Long ago, painters used egg yolk as a binding medium for paint. (Oil, oil paint. Water, watercolors) Egg Tempura. Directions amazed me! "Separate the egg, white from yolk. Roll the yolk on a towel to dry. Pierce the yolk and drain the yellow contents into a bowl"

Knowing only grocery store eggs, with the yolk so fragile, I could not imagine, or do, roll a yolk on a towel to dry. And the pour out the contents.

I know differently now.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

I wanted to bring this thread back up because just today I ran across a story in my local newspaper about someone who got busted for having chickens. I guess it all depends on your neighbors and this poor lady has a cranky neighbor! Here is the story if you want to read it:

Although it sounds like this lady has her hands full already, I hope she has just enough fight left in her to stand against these unreasonable rules.

This message was edited Jan 12, 2010 11:53 AM

Richmond, TX

California! I hope her story brings in contributions to fight the possibly temporary law.

Ferndale, WA

What a pathetic story. Why can't people just leave her and her few chickens alone. "cause it annoy's me" (SLAP

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

Really, I hope she wins BIG

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Wonderful Thread....

Kingman, AZ(Zone 7a)

Mother Natures Music is now in danger of being stopped? I love to listen to them and really love my Roo...

How could someone hear them thru closed doors and windows...
"They're not roosters, but I can hear them inside my house with the doors and windows closed," said Verdugo, a project analyst for a technology company. "During the week, we're not home, but on the weekend, when we want to sleep in, we have definitely heard them and that's when they become annoying."

Christiansted, VI(Zone 11)

They must really need something to focus on.

Denver, CO

In Denver we're supposed to apply for a $400.00 permit to have chickens. This was passed in recent years. When I was a girl, chickens, even roosters were allowed and common. I'm not going to spend $400 to try to get a permit to have 2 chickens, so I take my girls around to my neighbors, along with a basket of fresh eggs, and plates of Christmas cookies. This approach seems to work. When I was a girl, I had a neighbor who really hated my rooster. So every morning, she would could come over and throw her shoes at my rooster, because he would be crowing. Well, not having an unlimited supply of shoes, she would have to come back over every afternoon, swear at my Dad, who would swear back at her, and collect her shoes. She repeated this every day, lol.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

I'm reviving this old thread to share some good news. Last night, Sacramento's city council unanimously passed an ordinance to allow residents to keep up to three egg-laying hens in our backyards. We have to pay a $15 fee upfront in addition to $10 annually per hen. That seems to work against the idea of supplying our own affordable food, but it is still a lot better than the former fines of several thousand dollars for keeping chickens "illegally."

Here's a link to the story if you'd like to read it:

Here's a copy of the story in case they archive it:

Chickens are no longer backyard outlaws in Sacramento.

With a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the City Council passed an ordinance that will allow city residents to keep up to three egg-laying hens in their back yards starting Nov. 1.

The new law was lauded by advocates of the slow-food movement and environmentalists.

"Allowing people who have a home and a yard in our city to not only grow fresh produce for themselves but also to have chickens goes a long way toward addressing food security," said Councilman Rob Fong.

Households that want to keep chickens will be required to pay $15, plus an annual fee of $10 per chicken. No roosters will be allowed.

And for those concerned that the new law will lead to chickens roaming city streets, the law requires that hens be kept in pens, coops or cages at all times. Those holding areas must be at least 20 feet from a neighbor's home.

Chickens will be tagged for identification.

Despite the overwhelming support of city officials, not everyone is sold on the keeping of hens.

Land Park resident Ken Caldwell wrote in an email to the council that he was concerned by the noise, smell and regulation of chickens. He also said backyard chickens could become health hazards.

"It is a bad idea to allow barnyard animals in an urban environment," he wrote.

Dr. Glennah Trochet, the county's public health officer, said she has spoken with state health officials and poultry experts at UC Davis and neither recommended striking down a backyard chicken ordinance because of concerns over disease, including the bird flu.

While some residents still have their reservations, one person who has changed his mind and supports backyard chickens is Mayor Kevin Johnson. And all it took was a chat with one of Northern California's best-known chefs.

Johnson spoke Monday with Alice Waters, founder of Berkeley's Chez Panisse restaurant. Waters is a chief member of the slow-food movement, which advocates for locally-grown products and healthy, organic food.

Waters told Johnson there should be "a strong commitment to healthy food and understanding that a community can raise its own food and eat its own food that's healthy and affordable, and her point is that Sacramento should be leader (in that movement)."

As for whether Johnson will keep backyard chickens of his own at his new digs in east Sacramento?

"Let me be really clear," he told reporters, "my house will not have any hens in the backyard."

The number of chickens already residing in Sacramento backyards is unknown, but city officials hear from as many as 500 residents a year complaining about chicken noise, chicken smells and other chicken-related effects. Those calls are expected to continue, even with the new law.

However, for east Sacramento's Irmagaard, Magdalena and Elvira and what could be hundreds more chickens across the city, the ordinance provides amnesty.

Sarah Weaver, who keeps the three chickens in a pen in her backyard, couldn't be happier.

"They're cheap, easy and fun," she said. "And our neighbors love them. We give them all eggs."

Weaver considers herself a responsible chicken owner, having traded in a rather noisy bird for the much quieter Elvira recently. Elvira, who Weaver said lays "chocolate brown eggs," had ended up in an Oak Park backyard from points unknown and is now a rescue chicken.

Said fellow backyard chicken supporter Randy Stannard, "This isn't really just a fad anymore. This is something we have an opportunity to lead on."

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