Article

Chickens

Like the animals we cherish as our companions, chickens are curious and intelligent. In fact, they possess some cognitive abilities more advanced than those of dogs and cats. They are known to try to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals around them. Baby chicks are very playful, and love human attention and praise. They can be taught to do many tricks, such as 'play dead'. Chickens have elaborate courtship rituals and close family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they even hatch by softly clucking to her unborn, who chirp back to her from inside their shells. Chickens will fight foxes and eagles to protect their family members, and mourn the loss of a loved one.

Yet chickens, the most consumed animal in Singapore, are also arguably the most abused animal in the world. Crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, they are forced to suffocate in their own urine and feces. They are bred to grow so large they become crippled under their own weight. They fall sick very often due to their stressed immunity systems, even with all the vaccinations and antibiotics put in their food. This allows drug-resistant viruses to evolve quickly and spread, leading to frequent outbreaks of lethal strands of bird flu, such as the H5N1 virus.

Egg-laying hens have it even worse. They are packed, four to six into tiny cages the size of a folded newspaper. They are never allowed to move or spread their wings their entire life, and suffer feather loss and skin damage due to constant rubbing against the cage and their cage-mates. In order to prevent them from injuring and killing each other, a disorder brought about by their horrid living conditions, female chicks have their beak tips cut off using hot blades without any anaesthetic. Male chicks, of no value to the egg industry and not suited for rearing, are either ground up alive or tossed into bags to suffocate within hours of being hatched.

The natural lifespan of a chicken is 7 years, but in factory farm production, egg-laying hens are killed at just 1½ years of age, broiler chickens at 42 days of age or less, and male chicks of egg-laying hens at 1 day.