Have I mentioned it’s hot in Kansas? When I left for lunch at noon today, my vehicle thermostat read 100 degrees. Yep, we’ve done our fair share of baking and sweating here in Central Kansas.
The heat teaches you a lot about human behavior, plant behavior and animal behavior. Our farm dogs suddenly want to be inside pets and our cattle spend their days lounging instead of eat. Different crops react differently to the heat and some plants just can’t deal with the heat at all.
The other day, I ran into a friend who was – as most of us are – complaining about the heat. Not only was she hot and tired but so, it seems, were her chickens. She owned a handful of laying hens that roamed her backyard and the day prior had found one dead from dehydration. The irony was the fact the animal was found a foot away from the water. Chickens, she declared, are not smart animals.
This story serves as an important lesson not only for my friend, but for everyone that has bought into the idea of cage-free eggs and free-range chickens. When left to their own devices, chickens struggle to keep themselves cool and hydrated. Pens and chicken houses keep the chickens in close proximity to their food and water and also keep them cool and dry. It also allows farmers to know exactly where new eggs are laid, instead of hunting for eggs and running the risk of leaving some to bake the in heat and dust. Humans would prefer to sit in an air conditioned home as opposed to an open, sunny space during the dog days of summer, why would we not give our animals the same option?
Cages do not harm a chicken or prevent them from enjoying life. They do, however, keep them safe and cool. We keep our dogs in cages to ensure they are safe, protected and hydrated. Hen houses serve the same purpose and provide the same benefits.
Farmers rely on healthy, productive animals to continue their farms. When we endanger the welfare of our animals, we endanger the future of our farm. People look at issues like café-free eggs from an emotionally point of view. Sometimes emotion must be removed and reason and logic used when making decisions on animal care.
*While writing this post, I stumbled upon an article published in the Chicago Tribune. Illinois Farm Bureau policy analysis Mike Doherty highlighted the skyrocketing price of eggs in Europe after the European Union outlawed conventional hen housing. Eggs now cost 67 percent more today in Europe than they did a year ago. If the U.S. were to pass the Egg Products Inspection Amendments of 2012, our egg prices would follow the same trajectory. You can read the article in its entirety at http://illinoisfarmbureau.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/ruffled-feathers.pdf.