Chicken chicks on conveyor belt in a factory farm

The reality of egg production: chick shredding.

The first day of life for a male chick born into the egg industry is also his last.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated October 12, 2020

Since he can’t lay eggs, a male chick is considered ‘worthless’. So, every day in hatcheries, males are sorted from females and dropped into metal grinding machines, or gassed to death.

The killing of day-old chicks happens in all commercial egg production systems, be they cage, barn, organic or free-range. Male and female chicks born into the chicken meat industry face a similar fate if they aren’t considered to be ‘viable’.

Laws don’t protect them

Some 12 million chicks are killed on their first day of life in Australia every year … simply because they have no economic value to the industry they’ve been born into.

These routine mass killings are entirely legal.

Many people are shocked to learn that animals born into the category of ‘food’, or even ‘entertainment’, are excluded from the basic cruelty laws designed to protect our companion dogs or cats: those born into the category of ‘friend’.

These exemptions are outlined in industry model codes of practice.

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry states that “culled or surplus newly hatched chicks that are destined for disposal … must be killed promptly by carbon dioxide gassing or maceration.”

The killing of these animals is enshrined in our laws, as an acceptable cost of doing business.

Day-old chicks who are sick, injured or simply born male are gassed or ground up alive as standard practice in Australia’s egg industry: cage, barn, free-range, organic or RSPCA Approved.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

Tiny yellow chicks, bred into the egg industry, going over the side of a conveyor belt into a macerator.
Their first day on earth is overwhelming, frightening – and it will be their last. Because they are male and cannot lay eggs, they are deemed a 'waste product' of the commercial egg industry.

The cruel cost of doing business

Once chicks are hatched, they are put onto a moving conveyor belt where they are sorted; males from females. If they are considered to be healthy, the female chicks will be transferred to a site where they will be grown to a specific size before being moved to an egg laying facility. This could be cage, barn or free-range.

So even for the female chicks, it’s a game of ‘Russian Roulette’ when it comes to the quality of life they will ultimately be afforded. Most of them will be killed at just 18 months old when they are ‘spent’ (which means when their egg production wanes). They will be killed long before their natural lifespan would end.

For the boys, they’ll stay on the conveyor belt until the very end, when they will drop off into a metal grinding machine, called a ‘macerator’. Or they will be gassed to death with CO2.

There’s a kinder choice

Creating machines to kill millions of chicks is the clinical result of the egg industry’s drive for efficiency, as it strives to keep up with consumer demand.

But consumers were never made aware of the true cost of this product … the true cost of eggs.

See how easy (and delicious!) it is to replace eggs in your meals by exploring our handy guide to egg-free living. From sweet to savoury, cakes to quiches, there is an abundance of natural and tasty ingredients that do what eggs do – but kinder.

Take the pledge today to go egg-free for hens and their chicks. Once done, share this page with friends and family so that they too can become informed shoppers and help shape a kinder future for animals.