Sandye is one of four adopted hens that I have had for a year now. For the most part, her life before I found her is a mystery. What I do know from the farm where she was living is that her owner did not want her anymore because she was not producing eggs. While I knew little more than this, her physical appearance told me a lot. Some of her claws were missing. She had been debeaked. Her comb on the top of her head looked like it had been cut off. And her feather were sparse, course and “hard” to the touch.
The poultry industry represents chickens bred for food as mentally vacuous, eviscerated organisms. Hens bred for commercial egg production are said to be suited to a caged environment, with no need for personal space or normal foraging and social activity. They are characterized as aggressive cannibals who, notwithstanding their otherwise mindless passivity and affinity for cages, cannot live together in a cage without first having a portion of their sensitive beaks burned off – otherwise, it is said, they will tear each other up. Similarly, the instinct to tend and fuss over her eggs and be a mother has been rooted out of these hens (so it is claimed), and the idea of one’s having a social relationship with such hens is dismissed as silly sentimentalism. I confess I have yet to meet a single example of these so-called cannibalistic cage-loving birds.