Yes, Chickens Do Feel Sad When Another Chicken Dies

By 2030 chicken meat is predicted to account for 41% of all meat consumed globally [1]. That’s a lot of chickens. Each one a sentient, social animal with feelings. Wastage (death) is common on factory chicken farms so how does this affect the other birds? Do chickens feel sad when another chicken dies?

 

Do Chickens Feel Sad When Another Chicken Dies?

 Yes, chickens definitely do feel sad when another chicken dies. Humans have been studying these birds for many decades now and we know, beyond any doubt, that chickens are sentient animals capable of expressing their loss through emotional behaviours. 

 

“Chickens are so much like us” …

(The ‘Hens of the Hills’ courtesy of Sentient Media)

 

Chickens Are Highly Social Individuals

If you’ve ever seen footage or images of modern poultry factory farms, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree, the conditions in which these sad excuses for birds exist are truly deplorable.

A Florida chicken shed with thousands of birds crammed in. It’s about as far from their natural environment as they could possibly be.

In fact, so many birds are raised in these hell holes that they’re referred to as ‘crops’ of chickens!

Before humans inflicted this cruel torture on so many sentient creatures, free ranging chickens lived the way they had done naturally for 1000’s of years.

Left to their own devices, chickens naturally form complex social structures with a distinct hierarchy … hence the phrase ‘pecking order’.

If you’ve ever kept chickens on a small scale, you’d know every bird is an individual with their own little ways.

So when I think of a ‘crop’ of 40,000 birds, crammed into a floodlit shed with massive ventilation systems to ensure they are not poisoned by the fumes from their own excrement, my heart truly sinks.

… and I remember why I’m vegan.

 

60 Billion Birds Killed For Food Every Year

It’s a figure almost impossible to get your head around and it’s likely we’re up to 70 billion now.

Close up of "layer" chickens feeding from a trough. I’m being conservative with this number!

With numbers like that, it’s no surprise a significant proportion of chickens never even make it to the slaughterhouse. They die a slow and painful death on the shed floor with their companions looking on.

For these poor fated creatures, there is no escaping the horror. Not to mention the disease.

They are entirely unable to engage in any sort of natural behaviour and this often results in an aggressive response.

The industry’s solution? ‘Debeaking’.

Yes, the bird’s beaks are clipped, without any sort of anaesthetic, often when they are just a few days old. This causes intense pain which is thought to persist throughout their short lives.

Debeaking is a practice widespread in ‘layer hen’ operations (egg production) but is also common in ‘broiler’ sheds (meat production).

Chickens, like other factory farmed animals, are considered units of profit. Emotions simply do not come into it. Who cares if a chicken feels sad?

Well … call us snowflakes if you must, but vegans care.

 

Are Chickens Capable Of Feeling Emotions?

I think the plight of 21st Century chickens goes largely ignored partly because they are deemed less sentient than other ‘food animals’.

A cow super-imposed against an image of two chickens. The phrase ‘bird-brain’ is a good indicator of how chickens are generally perceived. Cows being slaughtered invokes a more visceral response in humans than chickens meeting their maker.

Why this is the case is no doubt the subject of many a study and maybe just the fact that they are smaller than cows and pigs feeds into this misconception.

But chickens have been studied for decades and we know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, they are capable of emotional responses.

In the wild, or in true free-range conditions (ie: ample space to roam), chickens seem to know instinctively when one of the flock is going to die.

They will give that individual some space to find a resting place before paying their final respects, in an orderly manner.

Witnessing behaviour like this can only lead you to conclude, chickens are capable of feeling emotions.

So imagine what it’s like to be stuck in a big shed with 20,000 other birds scrabbling around in their own faeces with a beak that hurts like hell.

I think you’d be feeling a bit pissed off too, hey?

So when we see disingenuous bad actors coming out with nonsense assertions like “why veganism is bad for animals“, you can understand why I won’t even give them the time of day!

 

People Ask Me: “Why Are You Vegan?”

We live in a crazy time. The internet has allowed anyone with a ‘radical’ idea to gain traction and reach many thousands of people.

A sign held high at a protest reading "We stop buying, they stop dying - go vegan".

As a great leveller, the internet has also allowed the truth about factory farming to be laid bare.

These are truths the industry didn’t want you to know about. The more ignorant the population is to where their food comes from, the easier it is to sell them.

Social media in particular has enabled veganism to spread far and wide. The vegan message is reaching more and more people every day.

Without a second thought, I ate meat up until around the age of 20. It was perfectly normal for me, as it is for the overwhelming majority of the population.

Then I met an amazing woman who had been vegetarian her whole life. I immediately adopted a vegetarian diet as I wasn’t going to let her slip away!

So for 20 years I didn’t really give it a second thought until one Saturday night, she showed me something on YouTube.

It was barbaric and horrific footage of how dairy cows are treated … I’m not ashamed to admit, I shed a tear or two that night.

Fast forward another 8 years and I’ve been vegan ever since.

The power of the internet and the truth it brings effortlessly convinced me to go vegan … and I’ll never go back to how I was.

Once you’ve seen the reality, you cannot unsee.

Maybe my parents instilled a deep sense of empathy in me because, although I’m more hardened to it now, I have a similar reaction when I see images of 10’s of thousands of chickens desperately clinging to some kind of dystopian existence.

It sends a chill down my spine!

 

All Of Our ‘Food Animals’ Are Sentient

Chicken is the most popular meat on the planet, by some margin.

Side profile close up of a chicken. Yet, it could be argued that chicken factory farming receives less attention and coverage than beef, pork and lamb production.

Vegans do not distinguish between these animals, in considerations around sentience. We know all these animals are sentient and emotional beings.

So we choose to reject the cruelty and to not be responsible for creating market demand in these ‘commodities’ … how do we do that?

Simple … we just don’t buy it.

I could easily write another 1000 words on this but I’m going to wrap it up. There are many other reasons why factory farmed chickens lead desperately sad lives.

… and I haven’t even touched on the health side of things!

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article today and it’s got your synapses firing 🙂 As always, I’d love to know what you think so leave me a comment below and share this with your friends using the social icons at the end of this post. It all helps.

Thanks for reading and have a compassionate day!

Rohan.


[1] – Poultry World Market Trends Analysis with Jan Henriksen https://www.poultryworld.net/the-industrymarkets/market-trends-analysis-the-industrymarkets-2/the-future-of-chicken-poultry-beyond-2050/

[2] – “Go Vegan” sign, image CC licence link: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0

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