Undoubtedly unnoticed by most people last week was a story about some animal rights activists that liberated 72 chickens from a Utah County poultry farm. The group that claimed responsibility for taking the chickens stated they were taken to a better place.
I’ve raised chickens for several years, so I can speak from some experience. Taking cage-raised hen to a better place is probably comparable to the Romans taking men from barred cells and releasing them into the Coliseum.
Most chickens do not have happy lives. Whether they are kept to produce eggs or slaughtered at a young age for meat, they usually exist in a tiny cage. Thousands in similar condition are generally housed in a large facility where they never see the outdoors.
Whether these conditions are humane is not the current topic of consideration. The reality is that these chickens have never experienced anything else. Most likely they come from a long genetic line of chickens that have existed under similar circumstances.
My chickens are known as free-range birds. That means they spend much of their lives roaming my property and foraging for bugs, seeds, plants, etc. I raise them from day-old chicks. In addition to the food they find on their own, I supplement their diet with high quality feed and clean water. They spend nights and winters in a large coop protected from the weather and from other animals that want to kill them.
Even though I live in an urban area, there are a host of predators that want to do my chickens harm. Through the years many have succumbed to foxes, raccoons, skunks, weasels, dogs, and cats. Others have died in stupid accidents such as drowning in a horse trough. Some are killed by their fellow chickens.
Under the best circumstances, life is harrowing and dangerous for chickens.
The eggs my chickens produce are shared with family and special friends. I don’t sell eggs, but if I did, I’d have to charge $5 or $6 a dozen just to break even. If I were trying to make a living off of chickens, the price would be much more because I would need more land, more coops, more feed, etc.
That’s why most chickens are raised in small cages under factory-like conditions. It is the only way to do it and make a profit at a price people are willing to pay. Of course animals rights activists do not believe that people should be eating eggs or chicken. They think animals should be allowed to exist in a natural state.
The hens that were liberated are not wild animals that can survive on their own. They did not even have the early advantages of my chickens. They did not grow up in free-range conditions. They probably can’t fly on top of a coop or a fence. They have never been chased by a dog. They have never seen a raccoon try to tear into their protective coop.
So if these liberated chickens are turned out to exist in a natural condition, my guess is that most will be dead in a few days or weeks. And the misguided souls that tried to free chickens instead will end up contributing to their premature deaths. In addition, they have committed illegal acts and cause financial harm to the owner of the chickens and his family members.
Life isn’t fair for chickens—just as it isn’t fair for children born into poverty. If life were fair, instead of being thrown into prison when caught, animal rights activists like these would be liberated into the Mojave Desert or the northern Canadian wilderness where they could exist free from civilization like their cavemen ancestors.