Hot Topic: What About Eggs From Rescued or Backyard Hens?

Do vegans eat eggs from rescued or backyard hens? We explore this hot topic further…

Side profile of a backyard hen
Image Credit: AdobeStock

There are many wonderful people who share their gardens with survivors of the egg trade. These hens are often exhausted and traumatised, ill and featherless when they arrive at their new homes, and it is wonderful to see them flourish. From cages or crowded barns to strutting around freely, exploring, dustbathing and digging up all the flowers that had been so carefully planted!

Do rescued hens lay eggs naturally?

Rescued hens could continue to lay eggs for years – there is nothing they can do about it – even though the process takes much-needed nutrients from their bodies. Birds would never naturally lay an egg every single day, but hens have been engineered to do just that, no matter the cost to the bird. Some of those nutrients can be returned to the birds by breaking their eggs and letting the hens eat them.

Some hens will want to sit on their eggs. And after spending their whole lives watching their eggs being taken away, who can blame them? Of course, all natural behaviours should be respected and accommodated.

Is it ethical to eat their eggs?

But if she doesn’t want the eggs, and just leaves them, what harm does it do if a person eats them? Well, it doesn’t do any harm to the bird, of course, but vegans don’t eat animal products, and we don’t need to. All the nutrients we need are available from plants, and all the treats we could ever want can be baked egg-free. There is no need to give the impression that we struggle so badly that we keep our own hens just so we can have an egg or two. After all, we doubt anyone would be so desperate for dairy that they would rescue a pregnant cow just so they could have some milk for the duration that she was still producing it!

One option for vegans who have rescued hens is to give away the birds’ eggs to neighbours in order to reduce the number of eggs they buy from commercially incarcerated flocks. This is a double-whammy of activism: save the birds and reduce the number of eggs bought from exploitative intensive farms. Others may feed them to their dogs.

The backyard and rescued hens issue certainly causes a lot of debate among vegans, and the arguments on both sides should be respected. The main thing, of course, is that animals are not harmed or exploited, and that is something all of us agree on.

PAGE UPDATED NOVEMBER 2020

Ready to take the Veganuary pledge?

Veganuary is the world's largest vegan movement, inspiring people to try vegan for January and throughout the rest of the year.