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Hetty the Hen

Hello, my name is Hetty and I'm a battery hen. This is the true story of why I was born...

The first thing I knew about life was a big grubby hand snatching me away from my mother. I was thrown onto a conveyor belt at the hatchery with hundreds of other little yellow chicks. The belt was so fast we couldn't even stand so we kept tumbling over. As we moved along we were roughly grabbed and thrown onto separate belts, boys one way, girls the other. As I looked towards the boys I could only watch helplessly as my brothers and hundreds of other male chicks dropped into an ominous chamber where their fluffy yellow feathers turned red. They were being crushed, alive, to end up in the likes of cat and dog food. I thought this must be hell but little did I know what was about to happen to me. The next thing I knew I was being grabbed again and a searing pain was coarsing through my face as a red hot blade cut through my beak. Blood was all over what was left of my mouth and nose and I could see that some of the other babies had died there and then from shock.

The next experience I can remember is the day I was sent to the cages. This was to be my home... a wire cage with three other hens and the cage was no larger than an A4 piece of paper! No natural light, no fresh air, nowhere to dust bathe or make a nest, no privacy and I couldn't even stretch out my legs or my wings. It was pure torture. I was desperate to move but however much I tried to I just got more squashed by the other hens. We all felt panicked by the claustrophobia. The wire floor of the cage was cutting into my tender feet and my eyes were watering from the dust and the burning fumes of ammonia. Already my feathers were falling out as they constantly chafed against the rough sides of the cage and the excrement and urine from the hens in the cages above constantly dropped through the wire and burned my sore skin and caked around my cut feet.

There was no way out of this hell. Nobody ever came to help us or rescue us. Day in day out for more than a year I was forced in a drug induced, unnatural manner, to lay eggs. I was fed a continual supply of anti-biotics, hormones and stimulants while the unrelenting artificial farm light shone 24 hours a day, tricking my body into producing more and more eggs and causing the calcium in my bones to be stripped to the point they were so brittle they could snap from the slightest of touches. I was in a state of collapse, all of us were sick, there was not a single healthy hen in any of the cages, and there were thousands. The lowest point came when my friend Cathy, who had been in the cage with me from Day One, found that she had been squashed in one position for so long that her feet had grown around the wire floor and she was unable to reach the feed. She starved to death right there in the cage with us and there was nothing we could do to help. She was there for many months, rotting...

There is so much more that I would like to tell you but I'm feeling too weak now. At this point I have no more use to the farmer, I have become what's known as a "spent hen", destined now to become an ingredient in a cheap soup or pie. My final day is here yet I am little more than a year old. My last moments are truly horrifying. I am hanging upside down in the slaughterhouse, shackled by my feet, looking into the eyes of all the hens who have shared this past tortuous year with me. My legs are already broken from the rough handling of the farm worker as he dragged me from my cage and threw me into a crate and I can't tell you what is going to happen next...

I now realise that I was not an individual, my life was only ever going to be exploited... all I am is a by-product of the egg industry.

For more information about the egg industry see Hetty's Myspace profile:

Love them, don't eat them

Chickens are inquisitive and interesting animals whose cognitive abilities are more advanced than those of cats, dogs, and even some primates. Chickens understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, demonstrate self-control, worry about the future, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation.


Editors note about "Cage Free" and "Free Range" eggs: "Cage-free" means only that the animals are not in cages; beyond that, anything goes, and the animals are often crammed inside faeces-ridden sheds, with no ability to engage in any natural behaviours, for their entire lives. "Free-range" birds also generally spend the majority (if not all) of their lives inside a dark shed with thousands of other birds. These sheds have 'popholes' which allow birds access to the outside and the producers to label their eggs 'free-range'. However, because birds are territorial, the stronger ones monopolise the area around the popholes, while the weaker ones may never cross these territories to get to the exits. These weaker birds may never get outside at all. The areas around the popholes are, not surprisingly, the most desirable areas of the shed, and consequently fights break out amongst the congregated birds. Because aggression, injuries and even cannibalism are rife under these stressful conditions, free-range hens may still be debeaked, a painful practice in which the ends of the birds' sensitive beaks are sliced off.

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