Most of the cages in the shed I worked in today were empty. About 30
cages held dead chickens, and dozens of other cages had various
chicken parts in them.
At one point, I saw a live hen, who had escaped notice during
de-population of the cages. I pointed out the chicken to a co-worker,
who told me to take the chicken out. I picked the bird out and handed
her to the worker, who said, "I'm going to kill it." The worker held
the hen upside down by her legs, as he attempted to wring her neck. He
then dropped the bird onto the floor. She struggled against his boot,
as he tried to push her into the manure pit below the lowest tier of
cages. She struggled frantically – her wings flapping violently - as
he stood on her. Then the worker kicked her into the pit. I saw her
struggle briefly in manure before sinking in.
Cobwebs were so thick on the surfaces of the cages, feed belts, and ceiling, that putting the tip of the air gun directly against them and rubbing the metal against the web chords was the only thing that would break them off. Often I would feel something crawling on my head, face or neck, while using the hose, and I would swat at it before seeing a spider fall to the ground.
I also observed the de-population process, which consisted of two workers with what looked like a wheeled, stainless steel trash bin with doors on its sides and top. An attached CO2 tank infused the bin with gas, killing the birds as they were thrown inside. Workers would pull chickens, two at a time, and put them in the bin. The chickens were grabbed by their wings, legs, and backs, often slamming against the sides of the cages or becoming caught in the cage doors as they were repeatedly yanked by the workers to come out. Once out, they were either pushed against the side doors to fall inside the bin or thrown down with some force to be pushed inside the top doors. I often saw workers lift the chickens up and hurl them down hard onto the top of the bin, sometimes missing the doors and bouncing off of the bin onto the floor.
The bins were about five feet tall, and chickens were heaped four feet above the brim. The dead chickens were periodically dumped into a trailer pulled by a pick-up truck.
I spoke to a worker, who was collecting dead chickens into a “shopping” cart. Some of the dead birds had large bloody or scabbed wounds on them, and one appeared to have a prolapsed uterus. The worker said that a hundred birds die every day here.
I saw four dead hens on the floor of the aisles today, as well as three live hens. At one point I saw a worker use a pole to beat a hen through a gap in the floor into the manure pit below. The hen was alive and walking in the pit but had been hit and shoved for over fifteen seconds before falling in.
Today young hens were brought in from another site and put into
battery cages. Chickens arrived on wheeled stacks of cages loaded onto
trailers pulled by semi-truck cabs. Though it was raining today, the
stacks were left uncovered – leaving the birds exposed to the
The stacks of cages were lifted on a loader to the upper level of the
shed, where workers then wheeled them off of the loader and down the
aisles of battery cages. Workers unloaded the chickens, placing one to
two chickens in cages at a time, working one or two cages at once. Six
to eight chickens were typically crammed into each cage.
The birds were generally grabbed by their legs and forcefully shoved
head first or back first into cages. Their wings and necks often got
caught in the doorways, at which point the workers would shove the
chickens harder until they fit.
A hen, who was still alive and loose in the barn yesterday, was in the manure pit today, pecking at the ground and moving slowly. A co-worker threw an egg at the bird, but he missed and the egg splattered against a metal beam. No water or food was given to the bird and she was left loose in the pit before we left for the day.
A bird was left in a mobile cage as the workers went to lunch. I saw that the bird was barely breathing and weakly lifted her head when I touched her neck. I pointed this out to several co-workers, so one pulled her out of the cage by her neck and then commented that one of her legs was broken. He then held her head and whipped her body around to break her neck and threw her about ten feet onto the cement before walking off. I checked on her nearly two minutes later, and she was still breathing and responding to my touch by kicking her feet and opening her mouth and eyes.
During the unloading of a truck, I noticed that one empty bank of cages had a single chicken body in it with the head ripped off and fresh blood dripping from it.
Every chicken in the barn had curling toenails that were about three inches long. I saw two hens with infected left eyes. One had a swollen eyelid and the eyeball was secreting a clear discharge. The other hen’s eye was swollen shut with the eyelid pushed about ten times farther out than it should have been. I saw three emaciated and lethargic hens, lying at the front of their cages near their feeders without moving when the other birds in their cages stepped on them.
Cobwebs covered the feeders and egg belts under many of the cages as well, and mouse droppings littered the floor. Three times I saw mice running along the floor as I walked through the rows today.
I saw a hen with what appeared to be a large tumor on the side of her face about half the size of a golf ball. I also found a dead hen in a bottom cage.
I spoke to my supervisor about birds killed in de-population, and he said that the birds are taken to a plant to be rendered – boiled into a melt of fat and protein – and then sent “somewhere out east” to be turned into chicken feed.
I saw a crippled hen with her left leg bent completely backwards with a swollen knee. She was flapping on the ground and hobbling in the northeast corner of the shed. As I approached her to view her condition, she flapped her wings to move and hobbled toward several other loose birds.
I saw a variety of health concerns in the sheds, including three hens with their right wings rubbed raw at the joint. All of the feathers were rubbed off and only skin was left underneath with a clear discharge covering it. I saw three dead hens in separate battery cages, including one that was completely covered in feces and appeared to be partly decomposed.
I saw a bird with a large sore on the left side of her head. The sore was about a half an inch in diameter and appeared to be a gouge through her flesh that was covered in a thick, bloody scab. I also saw a hen with torn, bloody feathers covering the left side of her neck from her beak to about four inches down her neck.
More than thirty chickens were in the manure pit below the shed with no food or water available to them. I saw over twenty chickens running around, primarily in one flock with about a dozen other birds walking around the manure piles. I saw the crippled hen with her left leg bent backwards that I had seen on Friday. She limped across part of the manure pit away from me.
There were about forty dead birds in the “organic,” “cage-free” shed today, and I saw dozens of dead birds piled up at a metal burning pit at the north end of the property. A metal rack on wheels held a pile of dead birds. Atop the dead pile, poised for dumping into the burning pit, was a live hen, sitting with her head erect.
I found two hens, who were lethargic and unable to stand. Both of the injured birds had their heads stuck under their cages’ front walls when I found them. I also found a hen with dried purple skin in large patches on her right side and a broken right wing with a bulge under her skin that kept the wing permanently up past a forty-five degree angle. I put the hen on the ground and tried to lift her to a standing position, but she fell back down. Bloody scabs covered the purple wound, and the hen would do nothing but lie on her left side, unable to get up, stand, or walk.
Two trash cans at the south end of the shed were filled with dead hens when I entered the building. The two cans held about fifty dead hens in total.
I found seven dead hens in cages, one of which was decomposed and covered in manure. One hen, whose head was stuck under her cage and resting on the egg belt below it, had over five feet of eggs backed up behind her head.
At the end of the day I was walking with a co-worker, and a loose hen was running ahead of us. He picked up a piece of PVC pipe about six feet long and said, “Think I can kill it in just one hit?” He then swung and hit the hen’s legs as the pipe went along the ground, but she jumped up and ran into the manure pit.