Great Egg-spectations: The Ethics of Self-Sufficiency and Egg Production

What comes first? The chicken or the egg?

Look at your backyard flock and tell me – what pops into your mind first? Is it those lovely, slightly warm eggies they produce? Or is it the twinkle in their beady eyes, the adorable footprints they leave in the garden or their incredible, innate sensibility that knows when you’re down? For us, it’s both! But, our dear chicken lovers, today, we’re here to lay the big question…

Are we a tad too hung up on eggs?

egg production in self sufficiency

The Draw of Self-Sufficiency

Since time immemorial, folks have been smitten with the idea of self-sufficiency. In modern urban jungles, rearing a flock of hens not only gives you a connection to food literally from the ground up but also offers a true taste of Mother Nature. There are a couple of major draws for keeping chickens for their eggs.

Eggs overeasy

Chickens require relatively minimal space, deliver high-protein food on an almost daily basis and are quite low maintenance… OK, so we’re kidding ourselves there. But they’re supposed to be low maintenance unless you spoil them rotten like we do!

The moral high-ground

Keeping chickens for their eggs offers a swift exit from the often-questionable ethics of commercial egg production. Always a winner in our book. And we 100% support anyone who wants to ensure they aren’t contributing to intensive chicken farming – a home-kept hen is a happy hen in our book.

But Our Point is, Are We Missing the Point?

Here’s where it gets a little controversial. But, bear with us. There’s no criticism here of people whose primary motive in keeping chickens is eggs. But, within our community, we’re asking is it entirely ethical to focus so heavily on hens’ egg-laying abilities? Here’s where we hatch a fresh perspective:

Perfect Pets

Chickens are lovely, engaging animals with fascinating behaviours, and are totally capable of bonding with their owners. Their value goes far beyond the morning egg hunt.

Educational Purposes

Chickens can help children understand not only where their food comes from, but how to care for animals. It’s particularly significant these animals are ones that are traditionally contributors to the human food chain. Caring for them fosters a sense of empathy and responsibility. It helps them understand where eggs and meat come from – and feel the connection with the animals behind these products to form their own judgements and opinions about the farming industry.

Natural fertilisers and seed-spreaders

Chickens organically improve the soil in your garden by breaking down food and plant waste. Their waste (poop AND eggshell) is a wonderful, nutrient-rich fertiliser – helping you grow your own and flourish in your self-sufficiency journey.

grow your own self sufficiency

The Novel Viewpoint: Beyond the Egg

Keeping chickens solely for self-sufficiency reasons could be limiting our view of them as sentient beings. Yes, ethical egg production is paramount, but let’s not egg-nore their other amazing qualities:

Companionship

Chickens can be simply delightful companions, entertaining us with their bumbling antics and carrying a distinct charm. Who can resist a fluffy but? The morning caw of a hungry feathered friend? Their jittery flapping and bobbing heads as they plod around the garden.

Natural Pest Removers

Chickens tirelessly comb our backyards for annoying pests – almost a free pest-removal service!

Eco Warriors

When given space and freedom, chickens contribute towards a healthier ecosystem. Especially if you’re feeding them our lovely larvae. Wink.

Is It Time To Break The Shell?

So, wonderful flock friends, is it time to reconsider the egg-centric view of our feathery companions? Perhaps we should start looking at chicken keeping as more of a symbiotic relationship, than a means to an end. And even if we already do, by focusing more on the chickens and less on the eggs we can help transform the worldview of chickens and impact wider animal welfare.

That being said, we know so many people who go into chicken keeping for the eggs… and stay for the chickens. Because they’re the most charming animals, in our humble opinion. And it’s difficult not to fall in love with them.

Here’s a fresh thought:

Embrace the Interaction: Let’s do what we can to encourage the wider world to see chickens as pets and companions, much like a dog or a cat, that also happen to provide us with fresh eggs. When curious people enquire as to why we’ve opted to keep chickens, they’re often surprised when we refer to them as pets. They are our pets – wonderful, affectionate pets. And, as we say to our friends, “what did your cat lay for you this morning?” But we should probably stop that in the spirit of this blog…

girl standing next to backyard chicken coop

Ethics Beyond Eggs: Foster an environment which is not only conducive to egg-laying but also their natural behaviour and overall happiness. Make the latter the priority, consider the former a bonus side-effect. We can assure you, in this scenario, the chicken definitely comes first.

Giving ex-commercial hens a break: If you’re fortunate enough to be the poultry parent of a rescue hen, you’ll know these ladies have been bred to lay very intensively. And this takes its toll on their health.

Prolific layers have high nutrition and calcium requirements, are often therefore deficient as layers pellets simply don’t have enough for them, and they burn out early as a result. We can give these ladies a break from laying with hormonal implants – letting them enjoy their freedom without having to produce eggs for humans.

As a side note, we also highly recommend supplementing with Black Soldier Fly larvae for ex-commercial hens due to the high calcium content and the enrichment – our research with the University of Reading showed great benefits for laying hens in terms of reduction in stress behaviour and improvement in overall condition.

Celebrating chickens for being chickens

backyard chickens self sufficiency

In Conclusion, we should perhaps start winding down the egg talk. Eggs are naturally celebrated in our community, and our social media is awash with egg worship. Rightly so. We love an egg.

But hens are not egg-producing machines. They’re feisty cluckers who deserve to live their life to the full – and be cherished domestic animals. Not just because they gift us eggs. We’re proud to say, as chicken keepers, we’re already on the right track. Let’s just ensure that our girls know: that they’re not just loved for their eggs, but for being a delightful part of our family.

Follow us on social media to join the debate. We won’t judge you for your egg posts though – promise. We love an egg rainbow as much as the next chicken fanatic.

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