Chickens have over 30 distinct vocalizations to communicate with each other. They communicate many different things including calls, danger warnings, how they are feeling, and food discoveries. They have great memories and can distinguish and memorize over 100 different faces. They have the ability to see all the colors humans do as well as colors on the ultraviolet spectrum. Chickens keep clean by bathing in the dirt! They have an oil gland on their backs that keeps them waterproof. A dirt bath cleans it off allowing them to secrete more oil. As part of the mating process, a male chicken — called a rooster — will sometimes lie to a hen. He will pretend to have found a tasty morsel of food to get her to come close to him.
They have strong family bonds. The mama hen will turn her eggs several times an hour and cluck to the baby chicks inside. At day 19 or 20 the chicks can reply from inside the egg. She will dote on them and teach them everything they need including finding food, how to stay safe from predators, and much more. Chickens swallow their food whole and the food is broken down in a part of the chickens stomach called the gizzard. Chickens can live for up to 12 years but most with good care live between 5-10 years. Wild hens will lay roughly 12 eggs per year. A group of chickens is called a brood.
Reality of farm life outside the sanctuary
Chickens involved in the meat and egg industry live a brutal existence. Typically Broiler hens are slaughtered at 6 to 7 weeks old. All but the last day of their lives are spent in massive overcrowded barns that reek of urine and feces. They are bred to have massive breasts which causes them to succumb to many health issues starting days after birth. They develop cardiovascular, respiratory, and skeletal problems because they are forced to grow so large. They also develop painful lesions due to prolonged contact with their own feces.
The reality of chicken slaughter is very brutal as well. From the farm they are packed into crates or boxes and loaded onto a truck. Some die at this point. In transport many will see the sun for the first time and last time in their lives. Chickens are killed in a process called “Live Shackle Slaughter.” They are hung upside down and their feet are clamped into metal stirrups. They are then submerged in a bath up to their shoulders in electrified water that is meant to stun the birds. In 2019, the USDA estimated roughly half a million chickens in the U.S. remain fully conscious while they are submerged in electrified water, have their throats slit (improperly), and are submerged fully in boiling water until they boil to death.
Egg layer hens bodies have been bred to lay somewhere between 255 to 300 eggs a year. If you’re a woman, imagine having your body hijacked so that you experience both ovulation and menstruation almost every single day of the year. Farmers use tricks to up the hen’s output such as artificial lights. This tricks the chicken’s body to think it is always a time for high egg output.
Farmers also induce periods of starvation to force hens to lay more eggs. This puts incredible strain on their bodies. They will live 1 to 3 years in egg production. As soon as their output wanes they will be killed.
Since eggs only come from hens the industry disposes of the male chicks. Hundreds of million of newborn chicks are slaughtered either by being ground alive, gassed, or suffocated in garbage bags.
Chickens are sensitive creatures and when put in high stress or overcrowded conditions they will sometimes peck each other to death.The industry tries to reduce this by debeaking them, without anesthesia. This is painful and can sometimes lead to death.