There have been a lot of controversies surrounding chicken eggs and veganism. Not all vegans have the same point of view when it comes to eating eggs, even when they come right from their backyards. On most vegan forums, you might be surprised to see that administrators tend to block this topic of conversation because of the never-ending arguments it brings.
The main reason why both commercial and backyard eggs are not eaten by vegans is because of their common mantra, “If the item or produce comes from an animal, it’s not vegan.” Other reasons why some vegans do not eat eggs include the process of producing hens, the killing of male chicks, and the belief that all animals should have the right to live, even when they’re still eggs.
Although there have been many debates on whether there’s a difference between commercial and backyard-raised hens, many vegans choose not to include eggs in their diet overall. If you’re curious as to why they choose to do so, we’ll discuss all these points in this article.
Trigger warning: some of the contents describe violence toward animals, especially chickens.
Where Do Hens Come From?
When people ask why vegans don’t eat eggs even if they came from their backyards, it’s important to look at the history of hens. There have been multiple controversies as to how hens are picked once they come out of the shell. Backyard eggs don’t fall from the sky. It’s also worth taking into consideration where the hens come from in the first place.
Here are two of the most common places where backyard hens come from.
Factory Farm Hatcheries
Hatcheries are the facilities that produce hens that the factory farms then use for them to lay eggs. These same hatcheries are the ones that supplies different stores which sell their hens to become backyard pets.
By buying your hens from these stores, you therefore support the hatcheries and all their unethical ways of producing hens. You will learn more about how these hens are picked when we will discuss why backyard eggs aren’t vegan.
Adopting Hens from Slaughterhouses or Farms
Another way to have chickens is to adopt rescue teams that cover farms or slaughterhouses. With this method, you can rest assured that you’re not supporting any hatcheries that exploit chickens. Although, this is also where some vegans start debating.
When adopting rescue hens, it’s important to know how are you going to take care of them and their eggs. Since most of these hens are already genetically manipulated, you can expect them to lay eggs almost every day. The biggest question is, what will you do with those eggs?
Laying an egg takes a huge toll on a chicken’s body because it takes a lot of calcium, minerals, and vitamins from their bodies for them to create an eggshell. There are two options that you can choose from regarding backyard eggs.
- Feed the egg back to the chicken. To bring back the lost vitamins, minerals, and calcium, people let their chickens eat their own eggs. A lot of vegans say that this is the most ethical way since you’re not exploiting the capacity of the chicken to produce eggs. Although, there have been some debates as to what happens with the excess backyard eggs that the chickens cannot eat.
- The excess eggs are the ones that other vegans can either eat, sell, or give freely to their family, friends, or other people who choose to eat eggs. For some vegans, this option is still a means of exploiting the adopted hens because you are taking something that belongs to the chicken in the first place.
Most of the arguments you’ll often hear from vegans who talk about chickens and eggs go back to the second option. Because of different opinions, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to veganism.
In this regard, three things are worth taking note of:
- Like rescuing dogs or other animals, rescuing hens must entail that you don’t have any intention of exploiting the animal in any way.
- When taking the hens’ eggs, make sure to look for signs of “broodiness,” which indicates whether the hen had intentions of incubating its eggs. We will discuss this later on.
- Vegans typically put themselves in animals’ shoes. Just think about the pain and sacrifices they make by laying an egg, the emotional pain of somebody taking it away from you, and the constant thought of having to produce an egg for the welfare of others.
Do you dream of raising your own chickens in your backyard? But, can you make this dream a reality if you live in the city? Are chicken coops allowed in backyards? Read our article to find out.
Three Understandable Reasons Why Vegans Don’t Eat Backyard Eggs
Now that you have an idea as to where hens come from and the process to obtain eggs, let’s break down the three reasons why some vegans don’t eat commercial and backyard eggs.
1. The Killing of Non-Productive Hens
A hen can produce over 250 eggs every year, which means they lay an egg almost every day throughout the 1-3 years of its life. Like humans, chickens will eventually lessen their production over time. Once their egg production significantly decreases, they are already considered “spent” and will be discarded by commercial factories.
But what if it’s a backyard hen? Would it still have the same fate as the other chickens? This decision ultimately lies to its owner. Some vegans argue that backyard hens can live a longer life, even if they are not producing a solid number of eggs anymore.
In most cases, vegans who own chickens opt not to kill their hens and let them live a long, happy life. But they would have to consider the sacrifices of taking care of the chicken, including providing for the shelter, food, and necessary care through the years.
2. The Killing of Male Chicks
One of the most hurtful truths when it comes to doing business with chickens is that male chicks are considered useless. Because of their inability to lay eggs, most chicken factories disregard these chicks as though they are pieces of trash. We are not exaggerating this.
Once the eggs have hatched, chicks will be carelessly thrown into a conveyor belt in a sorting area. Once the male and female chicks are sorted out, the male chicks are thrown again into another conveyor where they are killed by either of the following methods:
- Spine snapping – putting pressure in the neck to dislocate the brain or skull from the spinal column.
- Gas and grinder – male chicks are forced to inhale carbon dioxide and then are put into a high-speed grinder.
This is the reason why you won’t see any male chicken in stores where they sell chicks that backyard enthusiasts can buy.
3. Sense of Personal Ownership
This is where we eventually answer whether vegans eat backyard eggs.
Some people argue that by helping rescued hens and providing them with all their needs (food, shelter, happy life), they are entitled to having eggs in exchange for all the good deeds. This has been some vegans’ perspectives, which is why they have chickens and eat their backyard eggs.
When we think about keeping hens for our consumption, we support the mentality that once we have animals, they belong to us. With this sense of ownership, we neglect the reality that these chickens are individuals who have the right to live with their own purpose.
Purchasing or adopting a hen with this mindset will therefore mean that you expect to consume their eggs in exchange for your services to them. This mentality entails that there will be a constant trade of demand and supply, which will result in hatcheries continuing their businesses.
Letting them live the way you think would make them happy does not mean that they are happy beings. The fact that they can live 8-12 years and can only produce eggs productively for about 3 years means that you need to take care of them and their medical expenses for the rest of their lives.
The biggest question is, will you take that kind of responsibility? If we were talking about dogs or other pets, then most people would answer yes. But how seldom can you find a chicken owner who’s willing to spend that much money? That is why a lot of backyard chickens end up getting dumped by their owners. We will be further discussing hens’ required medical attention in the section “What Happens to the Hen’s Bodies Because of the Centuries Genetical Manipulation?”
Will It Be Harmful if I Keep Hens that Produce Backyard Eggs?
As we’ve mentioned a couple of times earlier, adopting rescued hens and letting them produce backyard eggs is ethical as long as vegans determine the limitation of their beliefs. When it comes to eating backyard eggs, there are two types of vegans.
1. Vegans who don’t eat backyard eggs
Most vegans who don’t eat backyard eggs will often say, “If it comes from an animal, it’s not vegan.” Whether it’s about food, clothing, or any other product, once they know that the materials or ingredients come from animals, they don’t want anything to do with it.
Therefore, most of these types of vegans don’t take the eggs of their hens at all. The most ideal way to treat the eggs is to let the hen eat them back. On some occasions, hen owners will either crush, cook, or bake the eggshells so that it’ll be easier for the chicken to eat and digest them.
The next most common question that people ask is, “How about the excess eggs”? Of course, if it’s a rescue hen, like any domesticated chicken, it will produce an egg almost every day. This means there’s a possibility that the chicken won’t be able to eat all its eggs. When this happens, the most ethical way to treat the excess eggs is to leave them where the chicken had laid them to encourage them to feel “broody,” which will encourage them to incubate their eggs and can influence them to produce fewer eggs. By not taking their eggs every time they lay them, we don’t stress them to produce more.
2. Vegans who do eat backyard eggs
As we’ve mentioned earlier, some vegans eat the backyard eggs of their adopted rescue hens. If you’re new to veganism and want to continue eating eggs from your backyard hens, it’s important to be mindful of your hens’ behavior and feelings.
First and foremost, it’s crucial to remember that chickens have feelings and have the right to keep all their eggs. Once you’re done returning and letting your hens eat their eggs, you should look for potential signs of distress from your hen once you take their eggs.
If you notice signs of distress, make sure to return their eggs to them. Although, most domesticated chickens nowadays do not show such signs because of constant genetic manipulation, which we will discuss later on.
If you don’t perceive any sign of broodiness, you can take the eggs as a sign of a mutually symbiotic relationship. You give them food, shelter, and everything that they need, and in return, the hens can provide you with backyard eggs.
Several vegans do this. Although, because they are already accustomed to not eating meat, they don’t eat the eggs, but rather give them to their family and friends.
Overall, it’s safe to say that being vegan does not mean that everybody does the same thing. Rather, it’s based on one’s thoughts, beliefs, and limitations regarding what that person will eat or use.
If you believe that you’re not exploiting any animal nor causing them harm, and giving them all the attention and care that they need to have a comfortable, good, and long life, then no one, even other vegans who have a different set of beliefs, can tell you otherwise.
Chickens are raised for a variety of reasons. For the most part, they are raised for their meat and eggs while some are raised as pets. If you are interested in keeping a few of these birds in your backyard, one of the first questions that may have popped in your mind is do backyard chickens involve a lot of work? Read our article to find out.
What Happens to the Hen’s Bodies Because of the Centuries of Genetic Manipulation?
Because of the continuous demand for eggs, hatcheries and factories have been doing selective breeding with chickens. The most common season of the year for normal (wild) chickens to lay eggs is usually in the spring, with only around 12-20 eggs for the entire year.
Meanwhile, domesticated chickens are forced to lay around 150-300 eggs every year, meaning an egg almost every day for the next 1.5 to 3 years of their lives. As a result of this excessive production, a lot of hens suffer from multiple disorders, which can cause them continuous pain, and even death.
Some of the disorders that chickens may face include:
- Tumors on the hen’s oviduct
- Uterine prolapse – because of constantly expelling large eggs, the hen’s uterus is pushed out from its original area toward the anal vent area, which results in an infection and leads to constant pain, and eventually, death.
- Egg binding – instances where the eggs are stuck in the oviduct, which can be painful to the hen when trying to lay it. Sometimes, the egg doesn’t pass at all, which often results in the hen’s death.
- Bone fractures
If you’re a vegan who’s looking to adopt rescued hens, it’s important to brace yourself for the possibilities of having to constantly go to the vet and pay for the medications of the chickens.
Picture hens as women. Hens are genetically manipulated to produce an egg almost every day. If they were women, this means they would have their periods almost every day for the entire year! Constantly producing eggshells that come from the calcium from the bones of the hens, nutrients, and vitamins would essentially take a toll on the hen.
To be exact, a hen excretes 10% of calcium right from its bones to produce one shell. Picture a hen who needs to do this every day for human consumption. Additionally, this is the reason why egg-laying hens only live around 8-12 years while experiencing diseases and disorders.
It’s also worth mentioning that because of the disorders that hens may face when they turn about 3 years old, most egg factories choose to kill these hens immediately. Like day-old male chicks, these “now useless” hens are then killed either by neck-breaking or being gassed and thrown in the grinder.
The poultry industry is sadly known for the abuses that it commits against chickens. To supply the high demand for eggs, hens are forced and even genetically modified to lay more eggs, which then leads to complications and even death. If you’re a vegan who’s wondering whether you can help save those poor hens, remember that what you’re trying to do is perfectly fine.
It’s a natural thing for hens to lay eggs, and if you rescue one from a factory farm, chances are they are genetically modified to lay more eggs than normal. Whether you’re planning to eat their eggs, give them back to the hens, or offer them to other people, it is your decision to make. Just make sure to watch out for vegans and non-vegans who have their own opinions regarding having your own hens.