The Aug. 7 front-page article “Activists hatch a major victory” said that giving hens more space in which to move around also gives hens “more freedom to peck each other.” This implication of innate aggression is misleading. Pecking disorders developed as farmers uprooted chickens from the land and started forcing them to live in cages in the 1940s. Chickens evolved to forage. They spend much of their day digging in deep soil with their beaks and claws for nutrients and other items of interest. Hens cannot truly forage in a cage-free confinement building with a thin layer of wood shavings on a solid floor. Prevented from acting naturally in a suitable outdoor environment, chickens can develop behaviors such as pecking at each other. But happy chickens do not pick obsessively on their flock mates. They’re busy digging in the ground, sunbathing, dust-bathing and being chickens. Having kept chickens outdoors for more than 30 years, I can vouch for this. Cage-free confinement may be better than cages, but best of all is for chickens to live as nature intended, free of the onus of egg production for human consumption.
Karen Davis, Machipongo, Va.
The writer is president of United Poultry Concerns.