When a farmer finds an individual hen that is sick or injured, to the point that is must be euthanized, the most common method is cervical dislocation. When it comes to end of lay, Egg Farmers of Alberta has been leading the way in terms of pioneering the development of two new technologies for more humane euthanasia. The first is a Modified Atmospheric Chamber, which uses CO2 gas, and the second is Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning. EFA works closely with Alberta egg farmers to ensure that they are always meeting or exceeding American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) standards.
Male chicks are humanely euthanized at the hatchery, before the day-old chicks are sent to a pullet grower. Those hens are sent to egg farmers when they reach 19 weeks of age and start laying eggs. All registered Alberta egg farmers use an approved and humane method of euthanasia, whether at end of lay, or when a bird is sick or injured. The more than 17o egg farmers in the province sell their eggs to a grading station, who inspect and package the eggs before selling them to retailers and restaurants, so the eggs cannot be traced back to a specific farm.
Egg farmers use a variety of white and brown breeds in all types of housing. Common brown chicken breeds tend to be more calm, which is a benefit for managing birds in a loose housing system.
Whenever a chicken is euthanized, whether it’s a sick/injured hen on a layer farm or a male chick at the hatchery, they are humanely euthanized by trained personnel. There are also a number of international research initiatives underway with the goal of developing an alternative to, and eliminating the need to, euthanize male chicks.
The incidence of blood spots does vary between strains of birds, but typically about 2-4% of eggs laid will contain some blood. An increased frequency of blood spots could be caused by various problems with the feed, lighting issues, or unexpected disturbances in the barn. A farmer often consults with their poultry veterinarian and/or feed nutritionist, in order to help identify and resolve the cause.
Alberta egg farmers are committed to providing the highest quality care possible to their birds, regardless of the type of hen housing system they utilize, and they must all follow the mandatory national Animal Care Program. When shopping for eggs, both free-range and organic eggs come from hens raised in free-range housing.
Alberta agriculture has a wide variety of resources available for small-scale, unregistered egg farmers, which can be found on their website. You can also call them at 310-FARM (3276). Just be sure to confirm that raising chickens is legal in your area.
I love to see my hens cooing and clucking and following me around the barn!
Alberta egg farmers care for a variety of breeds. The choice is largely dependent on the type of hen housing system the farmer has, as well as their individual experience and comfort level raising a particular breed.
EFA and the province's egg farmers would be happy to answer some questions for you!