“Free Range” Egg-Laying Hens Get a Rare Second Chance

For egg-laying hens in commercial production, even those on “free-range” farms, life ends between the ages of one and two years. Pushed to their limits by generations of selective breeding, modern egg-type hens each lay more than 250 eggs per year at their peak, an output their bodies cannot long sustain. When their productivity begins to decline, these hens are deemed “spent,” and although they could live for many more years, they are slaughtered.

For 142 “spent” hens from a farm in Pennsylvania, however, there will be no harrowing trip to the slaughterhouse. When the Humane League, an organization that works to protect all animals through public education, campaigns, and rescue, reached out to the farm owner, he agreed to give his chickens a kinder fate. Joining the effort, Farm Sanctuary prepared to receive the hens at our New York Shelter and launched a placement effort to find them adoptive homes.

Rescued hens

In late June, just days before they would have been sent to slaughter, the hens, instead, arrived safely at our shelter. They bear the scars of factory farming — most of the hens arriving severely debeaked. The process of debeaking, called “beak trimming” in the industry, is the removal of around 2/3 of the beak tip with a hot blade. But, with their new lease on life and a little special care, these hens will thrive.

From here, several flocks have already been transported to new homes with members of our Farm Animal Adoption Network and at several shelters in the state of New York: Lollypop Farm (Humane Society of Greater Rochester), Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Safe Haven Farm Sanctuary, and Sunnyskies Bird & Animal Sanctuary. Others went to private homes and around 30 of the girls will remain at our New York Shelter. Wherever they now call home, these hens are truly free and have a lifetime of basking in the sun, dust-bathing, exploring the grass, roosting in cozy barns, hobnobbing with friends… in short, an abundance of life to spend however they please.

Debeaked rescued henrescued hen at our farm animal sanctuary