Forced Molting

Starvation and Motherhood Are Not the Same!

UPC wishes to thank everyone who wrote to the American Veterinary Medical Association urging the AVMA to revise its Animal Welfare Position Statement to oppose the forced molting of laying hens. (See Poultry Press Vol. 7, No.4)

Because the AVMA is heavily involved in the poultry industry, it rationalizes many cruel practices. An example is the letter the AVMA is sending out which falsely compares the starvation of hens with "the natural brooding cycle."

Reality: The Natural Brooding Cycle of Hens

A hen with a clutch of eggs leaves her nest for ten to twenty minutes each day to forage for food, drink water, defecate, and stretch her wings. Artificially-incubated eggs must be cooled for 15 to 20 minutes a day to match the time the hen is away from her nest. During the approximately 3 weeks that a chicken is incubating her eggs, she does not deprive herself of food and water for several days while on the nest. Moreover, she is bodily and mentally engaged in a highly structured holistic activity that is meaningful to her and bears no resemblance to the alien and frightening experience of being arbitrarily deprived of food. The body language, vocalizations, state of the feathers, and overall appearance of a brooding hen manifest a condition that is totally different from the appearance and behavior of a force-molted hen. An article on Animal Anorexias in Science (February 22, 1980) states that when animals fast in nature (hibernation, incubation, natural molting, migration, etc.) they evidently lose appetite (experience anorexia) because they are "engaged in other important activities that compete with feeding" and all the evidence indicates that "fasting is physiologically different from starvation."

This is what happens to battery hens...
Forced Molt Hen
Photo by Patty Mark

... and this is a hen in her natural brooding cycle.
Brooding Hen
Photo by Matt & Mary Kelly

"Induced moulting is a form of starvation"British Poultry Science (1992) 33:165-175. Comparing the removal of vital nutrients or all food from a hen to her natural, highly motivated experience of brooding and hatching her young is like arguing that depriving a defenseless person of food is the same as, or not much different from or worse than, a person's voluntary decision to go on a diet or to fast. However, a whole different set of feelings and internal mechanisms is involved in each case. Contrary to the egg industry's terminology designed to disguise the cruelty of forced molting, one creature cannot "fast" another creature. Fasting proceeds from an inner directive affecting one's own body as a reflection of one's own purpose be it maternal, migratory, political or some other internally-motivated project. I can starve you but I cannot "fast" you.

Unlike animals fasting in nature, force-molted hens have been shown to lose their natural immunity and to develop and spread diseases as a result--"In conclusion, induced moulting did exert a substantial effect on the immune system of the fasted [sic] hens. . . . Cellular immunity was significantly depressed during food deprivation." Br. Poultry Science (1992) 33:165-175.

What Can I Do?
  • Write to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Urge the AVMA to stand up for the hens instead of an industry that profits from their misery. Tell the AVMA to oppose forced molting and stop comparing it with motherhenhood. Contact:
    American Veterinary Medical Association
    1931 North Meacham Rd, Suite 100
    Schaumburg, IL 60173.

  • Purchase UPC's deliciously fun & easy recipe booklet Replacing Eggs. $3.50. Bulk orders of 3 or more: half price!