Chickens are descended from dinosaurs (paleontologists can’t tell the difference in a silhouette apart from size) and yet are the most abused creature on earth. They are fascinating creatures who have real personality and love to dust-bathe and forage for food and sing to their chicks in the womb! Yet we have factory-farmed chicken, cock-fighting, abandoned pet roosters and chickens, and of course battery eggs.
Here are a few ways to help our beligned friends who are so overbred, there are now around 25 billion chickens on earth.
Obviously one solution is not to eat it. Try some plant-based recipe books using real foods. If you do eat chicken, choose free-range certified organic, for best welfare standards. Most chicken on sale has ‘hock burns’ caused by ammonia that is cut away, as consumers are now up on their welfare checks. Visit Compassion in World Farming for info.
Same with eggs. You can find alternatives to cooking and baking with eggs. Try making tofu scramble! Or if you eat them, choose free-range certified organic (labels are confusing, this is the only one to trust).
people adopting ex-battery hens (and roosters)
If you have the right amount of land and suitable premises, you could adopt ex-battery hens (and roosters) via British Hen Welfare Trust and other charities that work with farmers.
Note this is not an easy job, as you have to ensure enough space and knowledge to prevent pecking, and keep areas safe from predators. Specialist food is often needed, as most hens are not in a good way, when released from the battery farming industry.
Let’s All Keep Chickens is the ultimate book for anyone who is rescuing chickens, or is a free-range farmers. Written by arguably the world’s amateur expert on chicken-care from America, this covers the basics from low-cost natural practices and the belief that we have a natural ability to care for chickens. Addressing a broad audience, Dalia covers how to raise chicks and look for a suitable chicken coop, how to naturally keep chickens healthy and how to plan a flock for happy hens and roosters, with no pecking. Drawing on her own experience as the child of Guatemalan immigrants, she looks at previous generations have lots to teach others about keeping chickens. You can also take her online course at Chickenlandia! Also read how to speak chicken and a book to identify what’s killing your chickens, with tips for safety of the flock.
how to keep prey animals safe from foxes
Most prey animals (chickens, rabbits etc) are not just at risk from foxes, but other creatures like badgers and even rats. Foxes are very good predators (and can strike any time of day or night) but know they are not killing chickens due to cruelty, but simply following instincts to feed themselves and their cubs. However, foxes rarely starve in the wild so keeping hens safe will likely not cause them to go hungry.
British Hen Welfare (which rescues ex-battery hens designed for slaughter) has tips on their website to keep chickens safe from predators. Obviously you need a large chicken-friendly coop with fencing so hens are free to roam and be happy, but secure from predators (be careful to use safe netting).
Never leave hens overnight, put them to bed at dusk (and keep them in secure runs, if you are going out for the day). Always check your coops and runs for damage, high winds or snow can weaken areas like roofs. Fixed runs should be at least 5 ft high and laid on grass at right angles, to prevent predators digging underneath (in Scotland, runs have netting on top to deter birds of prey). Also don’t house near overhanging branches, which foxes can use to gain entry.
plant-based alternatives to ‘fried chicken’
KFC is obviously the best-known seller of fried chicken. The company does now offer a plant-based version. It’s up to you whether you choose to support changes, or refuse to support a company that has many animal welfare/environmental issues (and still fries its ‘fries’ in chicken fat). Here are companies offering wonderful alternatives.
Read food safety for people & pets (many of these foods look/smell/taste like meat, but some ingredients could be unsafe near animal friends).
VFC is a company that offers plant-based versions to fried chicken, you can buy online or increasingly the items are now sold in supermarkets. It’s not ‘health food’ but it’s kinder, just be sure to recycle the packaging and just enjoy as an occasional treat, not everyday! The company was created by the co-founder of Veganuary, whose aim is simple: to save chickens. He teamed up with a chef (who he took to visit a chicken farm). And together they now offer viable alternatives.
VFC costs more than meat (because of the cheap ways that chickens are reared). But it’s healthier and high in protein and tastes as good if not better. And no chickens are harmed. The more people support them, the more prices can reduce. The company uses mostly paper packaging and is currently working on the rest, so recycle the rest for now.
The website has a calculator on how many chickens are being saved. Based on the target slaughter weight of a chicken in the UK (and percentage being edible), they estimate one chicken’s life is saved for each 1.5kg they sell. Made from wheat protein in corn coating, you can bake it in the oven or air-fry, or pan-fry. Full instructions on the packets.
Heura is a young funky food brand from Spain that sells plant-based nuggets in sustainable packaging. You can also find breaded fillets, both are sold for stores and food service.