Around 95% of commercially available eggs come from egg factories, where the birds are held in “battery cages,” 14 inch wire cages which hold five to eight birds. To prevent aggression due to the stress of such unnatural living conditions, chicks are de-beaked, which is a euphemistic way of saying their beaks are seared off without any anesthesia. The cages extend from one end of the barn to the other and are stacked on top of one another so that the birds on all but the top row are constantly showered with urine and feces from the other birds.
In order to treat any living being in this way, we must formulate some belief that these beings are somehow oblivious to their surroundings, to pain, and to the conditions of their lives. But that is not what science tells us, or what our own instincts tell us if we spend any time in the presence of such beings. According to one modern animal behaviorist:
“If, as the evidence indicates, animals are aware, and birds have human-like intelligence, emotions, and personalities, then... modern humans have been fundamentally wrong about the nature of basic reality. Since they have been mistaken about their closest and most common wild neighbors, the birds, they need to reassess and reevaluate their presumed understanding of reality and their relationship to everything around them, beginning with birds and extending out to all animals and all of nature.”
To boost egg production on the modern farm, hens often undergo a process known as forced molting. Molting refers to the process whereby a hen loses all of her feathers and grows new feathers. In nature this happens once a year usually during the fall so the hen will have new full plumage to keep her warm through the winter. While molting, she stops laying eggs as her body directs most of its energy to growing the new feathers. On factory farms, hens are manipulated into molting on a planned schedule that increases profit. Forced molting means the molt will be shorter and the hens will continue to lay eggs when market egg prices are highest. This is achieved through starvation. Typical starvation periods are between five to fourteen days. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture there are over 6 million hens in the U.S. who are being systematically starved in their cages at any given time.
Perhaps the dirtiest secret of the egg industry is what happens to the male chicks who are hatched at the hatchery. Egg-laying hens can only survive for about a year because the process of industrialized egg laying is so devastating to their bodies. After a year, most hens can no longer walk. Many die in their cages, and they are no longer able to produce eggs at a profitable rate, so they are sent to slaughter. Accordingly, there is a high turnover rate among laying hens, and in order to replenish the flock, other hens are bred at hatcheries. Despite all of our scientific advances, we are not able to breed selectively by sex, so for every female chick that hatches, a male chick hatches as well. A male who has absolutely no value to the egg laying industry, and who is not bred for meat, and so has no value, period. The result is that about 200 million male chicks are killed annually. The most common methods of disposing of these male chicks are gassing and maceration.
 Theodore Xenophon Barber, Scientific Evidence that Birds are Aware, Intelligent, and Astonishingly Like Humans: Implications and Future Research Directions
 “Forced Molting”, United Poultry Concerns, 2010, http://www.upc-online.org/molting/
 The disturbing conveyor belt of death where male chicks are picked off and killed so you can have fresh eggs, The Daily Mail, Sean Poulter, 4 November 2010