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 beyond wonderful to see them flourish. They go from cages or crowded barns to strutting around freely, exploring, dustbathing and digging up all the flowers that had been so carefully planted!
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 and that means looking carefully at the environment they are permitted. All too often the runs sold as chicken houses are little bigger than the cages they came from.
But if the birds are kept well, and they don’t want the eggs, 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, I 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!
Of course, we would encourage people to rescue hens just as we would encourage them to rescue other animals without wanting something in return. As for what to do with their eggs, one option is to give them to neighbours in order to reduce the number of eggs they buy from commercially incarcerated flocks. This serves as a double-whammy of activism: save the birds and reduce the number of eggs bought from exploitative intensive farms.