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Why do we want to Cause Stress and Pain to Chickens and when we can Prevent it?

Why do we want to Cause Stress and Pain to Chickens and when we can Prevent it?

By Madelaine, Eyes On Animals

Why should we handle chickens in a rough manner if they’re going to be killed anyway? That’s a question we often hear. I’d like to flip that question around: why should we subject chickens to stress and pain when we can easily avoid it? Each chicken lays about 500 eggs before it’s sent for slaughter. In exchange for that, providing them with a good life and gentle handling seems like the least we can do, right?

Catching by the legs

Few people may think about it, but globally, billions of laying hens are caught annually once their egg production declines. It’s a number many of us can’t even imagine. The usual method is to grab the chickens by one leg as quickly as possible from their cages or pens and then cram them, upside down, into crates. It’s no surprise that this causes a lot of panic, pain, and injuries.

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Upright catching method by Eyes on Animals

In 2016, Eyes on Animals introduced the ‘upright catching method.’ With this approach, chickens are individually picked up in an upright position, much like any backyard hobbyist would handle a few chickens. When the chickens are sitting side by side, it can be done in pairs. Let’s not beat around the bush; the upright catching method is slower. But we want to move away from the mindset that everything has to be done “quickly.” Time pressure is the biggest cause of mistakes, roughness, and indifference. The fact that more time and attention are given to each individual bird during upright catching is part of the Eyes on Animals method.

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Kipster chickens caught upright 

Four years ago, Kipster, as one of the first poultry farms in the Netherlands, switched to the upright catching method by Eyes on Animals. Two weeks ago, the chickens in Beuningen were loaded: 23,000 chickens spread over two evenings. Once again, Eyes on Animals was present to assist with the catching. We help with the catching itself, provide tips, and correct where necessary. Thanks to adjustments made to the coop, where Kipster had closed off the hard-to-reach parts of the aviary with fences, the chickens were easier to catch than ever before. In total, catching around 11,500 chickens with 16 workers took only about 3 hours. That’s about 240 chickens per hour. Together with Kipster and the catching team, we continue to think about further improvements, such as reducing labor and stress when placing the fences.

Upright catching now at Kipster USA

When four new Kipster barns were built in Indiana in 2021, there was no doubt. These chickens also had to be caught upright at the end of their laying period. Eyes on Animals was asked to train the catching teams and oversee the process. In December 2023, the first Kipster barn in North Manchester had to be emptied. After training by Eyes on Animals, a whopping 23,000 chickens were caught upright and loaded into carts. Although catching and loading are always stressful, the work was done as smoothly as possible. The chicken catchers took our instructions very seriously.

Killed on the farm

In the Netherlands, laying hens go to the slaughterhouse and are turned into snacks or soup meat. In America, it’s a different story. Laying hens are so unprofitable that it’s cheaper to kill them on the farm. Since Kipster hasn’t been able to find a slaughterhouse, this was also done with the 23,000 chickens in North Manchester. Once in the container, the chickens were immediately killed with high concentrations of CO2. Killing on the poultry farm is preferable from an animal welfare standpoint compared to hours-long transport to the slaughterhouse. But unfortunately, the killing method was not without stress or mistakes. Eyes on Animals wrote a detailed advisory report and is hopeful that the executing company will address this. It’s very sad to have to catch, load, and kill chickens on such a large scale. It’s a reality we, unfortunately, can’t change. But all big changes start small. For the first time in American history, chickens have been caught upright, catching teams have been trained, and the method by which more than 10 million laying hens are killed on poultry farms annually has been critically examined. Just today, we were able to slightly reduce the suffering of 23,000 individuals, and this is only the first step. We are extremely proud that we were able to achieve this together with Kipster and their franchisee.


Eyes On Animals