And then there was 36

Looks like we are officially in the egg business now. A couple of days ago I found an ad on Craigslist for a flock of Leghorn (pronounced “leggern”) hens for $8 each. When I got in touch with the lady who posted the ad, I asked why she was selling them. She stated that the county ordinance requires a minimum of 2 acres to have any “farm” animals. They have 1.95 acres, and their next door neighbor complained about the chickens. So I ask what she’d take for all of them and she said $200 and I said “SOLD.” Now, she told me they were “cage free”, which my brain automatically interprets as free range, the two are not the same. When my oldest son and I arrived, I could see why the neighbor complained. The hen house and pen were about five feet from the property line, and there was a powerful stink. If I had lived next door, I’d have taken issue too. The pen was about 20’x40′ and situated under a tall privet hedge so virtually no sunlight penetrated and the ground was a black, sticky, mess. Well I was ready to get this over with  because the stink was becoming unbearable, and I now felt that these hens were being rescued. 
Catching them turned out to be much easier than I thought. The Leghorn is a very skittish chicken that avoids human contact, so we just had to corral them into the hen house, set the cage at the door, then the lady’s husband went in the house and shooed them into the cage. It wasn’t long and we had 32 white hens in my two cages. After we loaded them up, I asked them if they have always had chickens. “Oh yes,” she chuckled, “Back in Oklahoma, we had up to 6,000.” That explained some things, like when she insisted I should buy my next batch from the hatchery they bought from because, “They’ll de-beak and inoculate them for ya.” These were retired commercial egg farmers.
De-beaking is a practice in commercial laying operations because they have numerous hens confined to a cage and because they exist in such an unnatural setting, they will cannibalize one another. The industry’s solution is to cut the tips of their beaks off, leaving them blunted nubs. If you notice in this photo, these birds don’t have pointed beaks, and that’s not sunlight..
Leghorns in a commercial egg operation.
Inoculating, or vaccinating, is necessary because there are so many birds confined to an enclosed building with no sunlight and the air full of fecal dust. This is an environment that breed all kinds of bacteria, therefore they get injected after hatching and then are fed a medicated feed to keep them “healthy.” While these hens I bought were already enjoying a better life than the poor birds in the picture above, I believe they are now living as good a life as most any chicken could hope to.

Now we have 35 hens and one rooster, who the seven year old has named Max. 
Max.
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