Male chicks are kept alive for a few weeks for their meat, but they cannot be monetised in the egg industry as they do not lay eggs. Both industries treat male (and female) birds as disposable commodities, but what happens to them very much depends on which industry they are unlucky enough to be born into.
What Happens to Male Chickens?
In the meat trade, male birds are permitted to live until the age of six weeks, alongside their female counterparts. They are kept in vast warehouse-style barns that are artificially lit, and they are fed highly processed foods that are intended to make them put on weight fast so they reach slaughter weight quickly. At the end of their sad, short lives, they are packed into crates and sent to the slaughterhouse.
In the egg industry, male chicks are killed on their very first day of life. Only female hens are required because only they can lay eggs. So, when a male is hatched, he is of no financial use to them. They would not waste their money caring for him or even feeding him, and so these tiny chicks are killed almost as soon as they have hatched.
What Are the Chick Culling Methods?
The industry has devised a multitude of appalling ways to mass kill chicks:
- Asphyxiation: The day-old birds are sent into gas chambers where they asphyxiate to death
- Maceration: This is an industry term for grinding them up alive, also known as ‘live shredding’
- Electrocution: Groups of chicks are pushed onto an electrically charged surface plate
- Suffocation: These babies are tied up in plastic bags until they die
- Cervical dislocation: Male chicks may have their necks broken. This is not just done inside the egg industry. Any chicken farmed for their meat could have their neck broken if they are deemed too small to be profitable.
Permitted Methods in the UK
- Chick maceration: This is legal in the UK but it is not the most common method
- Gassing: Millions of chicks are killed by being gassed
Which Countries Have Banned Chick Culling?
In 2022, Germany banned the culling of chicks. Austria, Luxembourg and France have also all outlawed the killing but this leaves them with the issue of what to do with those millions of birds.
Why Are Male Chickens Destroyed?
They are destroyed because they are not profitable to the egg industry. Those baby birds are no more than unwanted by-products and are considered collateral damage in the quest for profit.
Do People Eat Male Chickens?
They do. The birds reared for their meat may be either male or female, but the egg industry wants only female birds.
What Are the Alternatives to Chick Culling?
In time, technology will allow the industry to conduct “in-ovo sexing”, which means it will be able to determine the sex of the birds before they have hatched. Any males will be destroyed in the egg. This may be less inhumane, but can this mass destruction of life ever be considered humane? We don’t think so.
Until that technology is effective – and even afterwards, as there will always be a percentage of male birds who hatch – there is a real problem of what to do with those millions of male chicks. There are too many to be rescued and cared for by sanctuaries, and so many of the chicks are being reared for their meat. This means they will be transported to warehouse-style barns, packed in with nothing to do and nowhere to go, and finally they will be sent on a punishing journey to a slaughterhouse. This is the industry’s only alternative, and it is not one we support.
There is a humane alternative to chick culling, and it requires us to stop supporting the industries that kill them. To prevent the killing of young birds, we should avoid buying and consuming eggs and meat. Since, we can live happily and healthily without either, and since there are vegan version of just about every animal-based food – including vegan fried chick*n, scrambled eggs, cakes, mayonnaise and much more – we would urge all compassionate people to choose those foods instead.
There is so much suffering in the meat and egg industries, and animals’ lives are considered worthless unless they can turn a profit. We believe no animal should suffer just for a moment of our sensory pleasure. Not that we need to harm animals to enjoy our foods! We can choose from the wealth of vegan products that give us the taste and flavours we love without harming day-old chicks or any other animals.