Many chickens are raised in conditions equivalent to 14 adults being crammed into an efficiency apartment. About 6.5 million eggs are produced for the dinner table monthly in the United States. Many are fed high-protein food and raised in artificial lighting conditions causing them to lay over 500 eggs per year. Then, the chickens stop producing at a young age. If you want to eat eggs that have been raised more humanely, then use this guide to raise chickens producing ethical eggs.
What Are Ethical Eggs?
Ethical eggs are laid by chickens who are raised humanely. There are generally four conditions that must be met. The chicken laying the egg must be in a flock of chickens where they have plenty of room to roam. Secondly, the egg must be unfertilized, and they will be carefully cradled to determine which ones are fertilized and unfertilized. Chicks are raised on the farm or gotten from heritage breeders. Finally, the egg is out of a heritage breed.
In order to produce ethical eggs, the chicken must be kept happy and healthy. They get fed a great diet. While most farmers start out with a baby chick feed, as soon as they desire, they are allowed to integrate with the flock grazing in the pasture on the farm. The pasture is maintained so that a variety of ecosystems are present containing insects, worms, mice and frogs. The area also contains a variety of flowers and vegetables that the chickens can eat. At the same time, the farmer provides a constant supply of 20 percent protein layer pellets for the birds to eat if they desire.
It is unusual for farmers to have enough chicks born at their place to lay the number of eggs that they need to produce. Therefore, almost every farmer buys chicks. Ethical eggs come from heritage breeds. These chicks must be from a breed recognized by the American Poultry Association before 1950. The chick’s parents and grandparents must be from the same recognized breed. The parents and grandparents must have naturally bred without any human intervention. The birds must come from healthy stock that has lived outside for three to seven years. The chicks producing the eggs must be moved outside as the weather allows soon after being hatched. The chick must not be given any hormones or other veterinary care to make it grow faster. In most cases, the chick will be full grown and start producing eggs in about 16 weeks.
While you may think that free-range chickens often have more space to live and are producing ethical eggs, that may not be the case. There are no defined rules in most cases on the use of that term. Modern chicken coops are mobile and have several features that exist to make chickens healthier and more comfortable. Happier and healthier chickens produce more eggs naturally. While chickens are often raised so tightly packed together that each one only the space of a piece of notebook paper, ethical eggs come from chickens that have plenty of space to roam. Many mobile chicken coops are designed to be moved to a different area every few days. The coop should have a large run where chickens can peck at the ground finding insects and worms to eat. No more than three hens should be expected to use the same nesting box. Coops that are raised do a better job of protecting animals from snakes, rats and other animals who love to harm your flock or steal the eggs.
While many chickens are given drugs causing them to grow faster, ethical eggs come from chickens that have been allowed to develop naturally. People who raise chickens need to locate a vet who understands how to treat chickens humanely. After all, they can become sick or injured just like any other animal. Not cramming chickens together and having a dedicated space to quarantine new or sick birds can keep your flock healthier. Do not share equipment with your neighbors as pathogens can travel between flocks. Limit access to your chickens as pathogens can be carried on clothing, footwear and skin that will end up making your flock sick.
Protection Against Predators
There are several animals that may be in your area that love to eat on chickens. For example, raccoons, owls and hawks often eat just the chicken head leaving the rest of the body. Other predators, like mink, will often leave the body untouched after killing the chicken. Still others eat the entire animal often leaving behind only a few feathers as evidence. You are the ultimate protector, so arm yourself so that you can take swift action when necessary. Keeping friendly dogs with your chicken often discourages predators from showing up to do harm. Enclose the area where chickens are allowed to roam with an electric fence to discourage predators from visiting the area.
Arrange for Care
If you are thinking of taking a cruise or going on a ski trip, then make sure to hire someone reliable to take care of your flock and the space. The person should be familiar with signs of sick birds. These signs include a pale-colored comb, holding wings away from the body, coughing or wheezing accompanied by a runny nose and patchy feathers. The individual should be authorized to take the birds to the vet when necessary. Additionally, the person should be responsible for seeing that each bird is accounted for each day. If you are closing the chickens up at night, then they should also be responsible for doing this along with any cleaning that needs to be done. If you will be gone for more than a few days, check in often to make sure that everything is going well.
Raising chickens laying ethical eggs is not easy, but it is important to get the best eggs possible while helping your chickens to feel safe and secure. Use these ideas and your own ingenuity to make great decisions before you get started in the chicken business. If you decide to move ahead, then follow these tips to raise healthy chickens as they will produce ethical eggs for a long time.