Hatchery investigation | Viva! - The Vegan Charity

Hatchery investigation

The fate of almost all male chicks in organic, free range, barn and caged egg farm systems

Viva! investigates:  Conveyor belt of death

Hatcheries across Britain produce millions of hens to replace their ‘worn out’ sisters (most killed at just 72 weeks), but not every bird makes it out of the hatchery alive. To be precise, half of them don’t. The fate of male chicks was one of the egg industry’s best kept secrets – until now.

If you’re male you die

There are two types of chicken. The one raised for meat has been selectively bred to reach adult weight at just six weeks. The one raised to lay eggs has been selectively bred to be as skinny as possible to save space and to channel all her energies into producing eggs.

The egg industry’s male chicks have no commercial value because they can’t lay eggs and don’t grow big enough or fast enough for the meat market. All across Britain, hatcheries perform their dual purpose. They process female chicks in a constant stream to replace slaughtered ‘spent’ hens; and deal with male chicks but in a much more deadly way.


Our undercover investigators visited two hatcheries in the North of England. In both places, uncomprehending little chicks were dumped onto conveyor belts to be sexed: females going one way, males another. In one hatchery, males ascended on a conveyor belt before being dropped into a giant gas chamber. At the exit to the chamber, an almost constant flow of falling, lifeless little bodies filled waiting trays in a blur of yellow. They were destined to be sold as food for reptiles.

Dropped alive into a mincer

At the other hatchery, an even more violent end awaited the male chicks. Dropped by hand into a giant macerating machine, they were literally minced alive – living baby animals turned into paste.

As many as 40 million male chicks are legally killed in one or other of these ways each year in Britain. This horror plays out every day across the UK to bring eggs to the morning table and is part and parcel of every type of egg production – from the most organic to the most intensive.

Without this mass slaughter the egg industry couldn’t survive. Avoiding eggs altogether is the only sure-fire way of not contributing to this suffering.

This article first appeared in Viva!life magazine which is free to all Viva! members. Join Viva! today to help fight factory farming!