Life as a Chicken in the Egg Industry: Hell Starts at the Hatchery

Published by Ashley Palmer.

A chick hatchery has a lot in common with a slaughterhouse—including suffering and death. One PETA investigator working undercover at a hatchery often saw workers step on eggs and leave the chicks who were inside them to die on the floor. Sometimes the still-growing chicks would chirp as they were crushed under machinery.

In natural circumstances, a mother hen “talks” to her chicks before they hatch. This allows them to learn to recognize her voice while they’re still in the egg. But inside hatcheries, unhatched chicks are deprived of the warmth and comfort of their mothers.

In the egg industry, chicks who hatch early often die from dehydration or starvation. Many are too weak to stand or even hold their heads up. The survivors are left among the bodies of those who didn’t make it until workers come to sort them.

Late Hatcher Chicks at Sanderson Hatchery

Hatchery workers kill male chicks as well as the females they decide are too small or weak to become a “productive layer.” In some countries, workers drown, suffocate, or gas unwanted chicks at only a few hours old. The most common method in the U.S. is for workers to dump chicks into a macerator, where they’re ground up alive.

The baby birds who survive don’t fare much better. They live alongside hundreds of others—with very little room—until they reach sexual maturity at around 4 to 6 months old and start laying eggs. Due to severe crowding and filthy conditions, many young hens die before reaching puberty.

The hens who survive the hatchery are sent to farms where they lay eggs until their exhausted bodies give out. Once they reach 2 years old, hens go through their form of menopause and start laying fewer eggs. This is a healthy and natural part of the life cycle, just as menopause is in humans. But the egg industry values profit over lives, so chickens are slaughtered as soon as their egg production drops.

The egg industry tries to hide its cruelty behind terms like “cage-free,” “organic,” or “pasture-raised.” Don’t be fooled by deceptive marketing. Every commercial farm in the U.S.—regardless of its “standards”—purchases its hens from a hatchery that kills male chicks. No egg or nugget is worth their suffering. You can help spare chickens’ lives by going vegan.

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind