“What do you do with all the eggs if you don’t eat them?” is the most common question I get about the chickens in my care. The assumption underlying this question is that chickens lay eggs in the same way that fruit falls from trees. Now the truth of the matter: The hen’s reproductive system is manipulated by breeders to produce those eggs through selective and genetic breeding technologies that push the limits of the bird’s capacity to reproduce, and her body can only keep up for a short window of her life (1 to 2 years). Some critics have a term for birds that are products of modern chicken breeding practices: “frankenbirds.”
Those hens who survive the trials and tribulations of their prime egg-laying period, having a natural life span of 10 to 15 years, will face the next big hurdle that results from their breeding: degenerative chronic diseases — primarily crippling bone diseases, heart failure and cancers.
A case in point is Doris, pictured here, who couldn’t keep up with demands imposed on her body and thus developed a massive infection in her oviduct at the tender age of 1.5 years. The surgery that removed her oviduct and saved her life was risky. She will no longer be burdened to lay another egg.
I recommend giving back to these birds something that they have lost due to all of this forced egg laying. Eggs can be hardboiled and fed back to hens, who will typically eat them with great relish, providing them with a good source of protein and other nutrients. Shells can be ground up and mashed into the eggs or mixed back into their feed; this is an easy way to restore some of the much-needed calcium they have lost from creating all of those shells.
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