Whenever a sanctuary posts photos or videos showing how they feed eggs back to the chickens, an uproar usually ensues as non-vegans freak out, calling it unnatural, cannibalism, gross, weird… We’d like to explain further why this is actually the best thing to do with eggs.
Eggs are not baby chicks and chickens eating eggs is not cannibalism. Since birds aren’t carried by their mothers while they’re growing the way mammals are, all the building blocks for their growth need to be inside the egg. That’s what eggs are–food for growing baby birds. They are the exact nutritional materials a baby bird needs to grow from a cluster of cells to a chick. The same nutritional materials are perfectly tailored to what ailing chickens need to heal.
There is nothing unnatural about a hen eating her own eggs, though, even if she is not convalescing. Just break an egg on the ground and you’ll see how quickly hens understand that this is a delicious treat for them (you can see pictured here our dear Trudy couldn’t even wait for us to cook this egg before she indulged, mid-air!) Hens eat their own eggs in backyard settings all the time. It’s considered a huge problem in chicken keeping, and there are myriad cruel ways of “fixing” it, not least of which is flat out killing the hen.
What IS unnatural is the fact that modern hens lay hundreds of eggs a year. Hens’ free-living ancestors laid around a dozen eggs a year, in the spring, and strictly for the purposes of reproduction. Pumping out an egg every day, thanks to selective breeding by humans, takes a HUGE toll on a hen’s health, and it only makes sense that it would be hugely helpful, even NECESSARY, for her to replenish those exact same nutrients by eating the same eggs she makes.
Consequently, it’s standard practice at sanctuaries to feed eggs back to the hens. After all, they BELONG to them and them alone, the hens worked incredibly hard to make them and at great personal cost, and eggs are their favorite food.