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Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's like clipping toe-nails

After I investigated hatcheries that did not clip beaks or claws, I emailed Randy from Star Hollow Farms. (As you may recall from The Chicken and Egg Part II, I spoke to Randy at the Adams Morgan farmers market, and he said that he could not get chicks with their beaks intact.)

This is the email I sent to Randy:

Hi Randy:

My name is Emily, and I met you last weekend at the Adams Morgan Farmers Market --- We discussed your chickens, and you told me that you got your chicks with their beaks already clipped, because you couldn't get them intact. As you may remember, I told you that I could not buy eggs from someone who got their chicks with their beaks clipped, and also could not partake in your CSA for that same reason.

As you may know, there are a lot of folks like me who want to get their eggs from farmers who raise their hens with their beaks intact. I believe that people will be more inclined to get eggs from you if you started buying chicks who were not debeaked. From our conversation, and from what I gathered from your website, this is the one element of humane treatment that is lacking in the rearing of your chickens.

I spoke to another farmer (also from Pennsylvania), who told me that he was able to get his chicks with their beaks and claws intact. I got the names of the hatcheries, and thought you might be interested in looking into that option. I have included their contact information below:
- Reich Poultry Farm, Inc.
- Moyer's Chicks (215-536-3155),

I write a blog called (, and wrote about my experience last weekend. I would love to let readers know that you switched to chicks who were not debeaked, and who are able to carry out natural instincts like pecking.

Please let me know if I can help in calling the hatcheries, and I look forward to hearing from you and updating my blog, and specifically coming to buy eggs from you!

Many thanks!
Randy responded a few days later after looking into the hatcheries.

First, I would like to state that Randy owns the type of farm you want to buy food from. When some crazy person with a bullhorn and a bone to pick (a-hem... me) emails him and asks about debeaking chickens, he did not dismiss me as the bullhorn, bone picker that I am. He instead looked into my concerns, and addressed them. Here are some highlights from his response:
He looked into both of the hatcheries I referred him to. He explained that Reich's Hatchery is out of the question because they only sell chicks (not debeaked), and in order for him to raise baby chicks, he would need all kinds of expensive chick-raising equipment, and that does not interest him.

Therefore, he needs to get ready-to-lay hens. He spent 15 minutes on the phone with Moyer's Chicks, and learned that they do clip the beaks (contrary to what Pecan Meadows Farms told me) and they told him that
"clipping the beaks at a very young age is about the equivalent of clipping toe-nails on us." They went on to tell Randy "if enough people requested unclipped beaks, they might try it. I added my name to a list of interested persons," he emailed me.

He also told me the producers' reasoning for clipping the beaks, primarily that hens end up hurting each other when they are trying to establish their pecking order, sometimes killing other hens. And he asked me, "
I guess one of my main thoughts is, if I got such a flock, how willing am I going to be to have birds killing each other mercilessly, as is their nature, even with complete freedom, just so I can say they have unclipped beaks. Not an obvious benefit for them, or us, if you ask me. Just so you know, I consider myself a strong proponent of animal rights, and we treat our birds very well. So why change when it will mean dead birds vs. clipped beaks?"
So, like I said, Randy is a farmer you want to buy from. He is thoughtful. He is a strong proponent of animal rights. And he is doing the best he can. (Go read his bio on his website, if you don't believe me).

But what I need to find out (and not from PETA or a hatchery) is if debeaking is really like clipping toe-nails. Some consider neutering or spaying a dog inhumane, but, as a strong proponent of animal rights, I think I treat my dog very well, and decided it was best to neuter Winston.

And if we do find out that debeaking chicks is like clipping toe-nails, then that is great. (I love clipping my toe-nails. I clip them too short, even.) But if we find out that it is not, I hope more farmers will contact their chicken suppliers, especially Moyer's Chicks, and ask them for chickens with their beaks intact.

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