Fact Sheet: Battery Cages
Updated February 12, 2009
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- In the United States, an estimated 95% of egg-laying hens are intensively confined in battery cages.
- As of December 2008, about 300 million birds are confined in battery cages, almost one for every U.S. citizen.
- Each cage confines 5 or 6 birds on average, but sometimes up to 10 birds.
- Voluntary industry guidelines specify a minimum of 67 square inches per hen. This is an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper.
- Like any animal, chickens are highly motivated to perform natural behaviors. These behaviors include nesting, perching, scratching, foraging, dust-bathing, exploring, and stretching. Caged chickens are denied all of these natural behaviors, causing them severe frustration.
- Battery hens suffer from serious health problems, such as respiratory disease from constant exposure to ammonia fumes and fecal dust; osteoporosis, bone fractures, and prolapsed uteruses from being bred to lay eggs at an unnaturally high rate; and foot disorders, sores, and injuries from contact with the cage wire in outdated cage systems.
- As a response to the lack of foraging opportunities in the barren cage environment, chickens sometimes engage in feather-pecking of their cagemates. So, before they are 10 days old, the ends of their beaks are seared off with hot blades.
- Beak mutilation causes acute and sometimes chronic pain.
- For every egg you buy, a hen will be forced to endure these conditions for over 32 hours.
- Chickens are confined for about a year and a half before their ability to lay eggs declines, then they are killed.
- Eggs are not a necessary part of a nutritious diet, and there are many healthy, affordable alternatives that make it easy to leave eggs off of your shopping list for good. Some good egg alternatives include applesauce, bananas, commercial egg replacer powder (such as Ener-G Egg Replacer or Bob's Red Mill All Natural Egg Replacer) ground flaxseed, tofu, or vinegar and baking soda.
- The egg industry cannot be trusted to make responsible decisions regarding the welfare of chickens, because it has a profit motive to sacrifice their interests. There are currently no U.S. federal laws that protect the interests of chickens used for food.