Victorian Vet Claims Chickens Don't Actually Like Being Free Range
When you're strolling through the supermarket, you'll reach the egg section and can be overwhelmed with choice. There are different sizes, different amounts and different conditions.
It's the latter that's caused debate and legislation across Australia for some time, with specific rules in place to determine what's considered free range and organic.
Animal welfare campaigners have been working to get chickens out of confined cages and into open spaces to enjoy a good life in the sunshine.
But an Aussie vet suggests that maybe that could be the worst thing for them.
Dr Charles Milne, who previously was Victoria's top vet, said: "Chickens are related to forest-dwelling birds. They don't like open spaces. Free-range can deliver huge welfare problems.
"Instinctively as people, we anthropomorphise animals and think they must prefer free-range because we would."
The RSPCA explains there isn't a nationwide definition for free range: "Conditions on free-range farms vary greatly. On some farms, the range area is large, the hens have access to shade and shelter, and all hens are able to come and go from the range during the day; on others the range area is small, bare and difficult for hens to get to."
This isn't to say 'let's chuck them back in cages because that's what they prefer', but it's more a readjustment of what people need to think of when they're picking their eggs.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, around 45 percent of Aussie's egg purchases are free range. By comparison, chickens that are kept indoors only attract a tiny percentage of sales.
This revelation could change that.
As long as the hens aren't kept in tiny cages and are provided with ethical treatment, then it should be fine.
University of New England's Associate Professor Tamsyn Crowley supports Dr Milne's assessment, telling the SMH: "A chicken does not really like running around in a field where an eagle can come down and go, 'Thank-you very much'.
"There is a push in Europe that free-range chickens should all have to go outside every day. And that clearly is not a good decision for welfare."
Professor Crowley says chickens would probably be happiest in a barn, free from predators, but with enough room to walk around a bit. While we'll never know for sure about what they really want, this is probably the closest we'll get.
So let's listen to the chickens.
Featured Image Credit: PA