Concern for the chicken is growing, the practice of personal flock-keeping is gaining adherents, and the new EPI Act would, if passed, make things much better for our feathered friends.
The age-old debate over which comes first seems close to being resolved in favor of the chicken. After years of hens being treated as little more than egg-dispensers, concern is growing for the well-being of the layers themselves. Meanwhile, the practice of personal flock-keeping is on the rise. Across the country, and in many parts of the world, chicken-first approaches are supplanting the simple quest to create the cheapest eggs possible.
In the industrial egg factories where most of America's eggs are laid, the newly introduced Egg Products Inspection Act would, if passed, make life easier. The bill grew from a compromise between United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States. It would mandate replacing the nation's 280 million chicken-sized battery cages as they're called with group cages equipped with amenities like dust baths and perches, while banning some of the cruelest practices associated with egg farming.
While bonds may be loosening for the jailed birds on life's lowest perches, the ranks of the privileged few are growing. Chicken society's one-percenters, the personal flocks of subsistence and hobby chicken farmers, have reached a size that actually resembles a percentage point. And now, finally, the scattered tribes of backyard flocksters have a bible to call their own: The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery, with a forward by his colleague, the outspoken chicken farmer Joel Salatin.