My Friend the Chicken

By Published On: 24 March 2010Last Updated: 18 May 2023

Even though I would consider myself to be well-informed, the reality is that I don't have all the answers. Like this one, "Can chickens get pregnant?" Let me tell you about it.

What's in this post

Learning about chickens

Every so often, I’m reminded of how little I know about the lives of animals. Yesterday was one of those days.

I want to admit right now that I don’t mind these types of reminders. Instead, I look forward to them. They help me put things into perspective. For me, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to be a vegan advocate. My heart is often filled with sadness for the animals I’ll never be able to help and the unnecessary loss of lives who matter. 

And even though I would consider myself to be well-informed, the reality is that I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I have to say, “I don’t know,” and that’s okay. In those times, I’m given an opportunity to grow and become a better voice for animals. 

As I said, yesterday was one of those days.

A question about chickens

I received a phone call from a friend who had a question. They called, saying, “I don’t want to talk to my friend; I want to talk to the vegan activist.” I love that.

My friend called to talk to me about chickens and cows. Specifically, they wanted to know why we shouldn’t use these animals’ products since it doesn’t require their immediate deaths. They asked me about compassionate treatment and the humane myth that people are sold by industries that profit from using animals.

Questions like, why don’t we use a dairy cow’s milk if they’ve already given birth and produced milk? (If you don’t know, this is why.)

And also, how do chickens get pregnant? It’s this last question that had me stumbling. How do chickens get pregnant?

I didn’t know.

While I could tell you the conditions these amazing birds face on farms, I didn’t know much about their biological lives.

So, I looked it up.

A rescued hen with her chicks / Source

Chicken biology & farming

I don’t want to overcomplicate the issue, so I’ll keep it simple.

In basic terms, a hen produces eggs but will only get fertilized if a rooster is present. The number of eggs produced by hens is affected by things such as breed type, light, temperature, and nutrition.

Most, if not all, of the eggs produced on factory farms are unfertilized eggs. Meaning they could never grow, hatch, and become a chick. Keeping this in mind, does this mean we should eat them since they’ll never become animals anyway?


Remember how I said that egg production is affected by conditions like light, temperature, and nutrition? Well, farmers manipulate these conditions to ensure as many eggs as possible. Sadly, these conditions are horrific. Birds are crammed into tiny wire cages, rows upon rows of them. Hens have about the same size area as an iPad to live in. The photos of these places, which you can find online easily, are heartbreaking and nauseating.

At the end of their useful lives, the hens are killed. Every single one. One hundred percent. 

They deserve so much better than that.

A vegan perspective

I can almost some of you say, but what about if you raise hens? Should you eat those eggs?

The answer is still no.

Firstly, chickens will eat their eggs. The nutrients in them help replenish the calcium leached from their bones to produce all those shells.

RELATED READING » Backyard Chickens: Expanding Our Understanding of Harm

Secondly, I don’t have the right to assume I’m not harming an animal. I don’t speak chicken, cow, or pig. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t speak dog or cat either. While I can guess how a backyard chicken might feel if I took her eggs, the truth is, I don’t know. Even if I could talk to chickens, I still wouldn’t take their eggs.

A well-planned plant-based diet is healthy, and I don’t need to eat eggs for nutrition or sustenance.

In conclusion

If you’re reading this as a non-vegan, it might seem silly to avoid eggs. But as a vegan, I see things differently.

As humans, we are responsible for caring for the other animals we share this big, beautiful planet with. And I can’t do that properly if I believe that animal by-products are mine for the taking.

Resident rooster Piopito, the first rooster rescued by the farm animal sanctuary Santuario Igualdad in Chile / Gabriela Penela, We Animals Media
Resident and mother hen Kiwi takes care of her newborn baby chicks at the farm animal sanctuary Santuario Igualdad in Chile / Gabriela Penela, We Animals Media

The Igualdad Sanctuary is located on the outskirts of Santiago de Chile, in a commune called El Monte. This non-profit foundation provides shelter for farm animals who have escaped from the meat, dairy, or egg industry. As of 2022, more than 80 chickens, cows, goats, sheep, and pigs live harmoniously at the sanctuary.

For more than ten years, the sanctuary has rescued, cared for, and protected farm animals who are victims of abuse, cruelty, and abandonment. At the same time, they raise awareness about the complex emotional lives of these animals through storytelling, inspiring people to be more compassionate and kind to animals. While rescue and awareness work is an important part of their mission, Igualdad Sanctuary focuses its efforts on providing a safe space where each of the animals who arrive is protected for life.

More About WeAnimals Media

If you regularly consume media about animals, chances are you’ve seen the award-winning photography from We Animals Media. Their project aims to “give the lives and stories of animals in our world a place in the public conscience.” They do this through compelling media.

From their website:

“Through compelling photography, journalism, and filmmaking, We Animals Media illuminates the lives of animals used for food, fashion, entertainment, work, religion, and experimentation. We are committed to telling these stories through an empathic lens – collectively widening our circle of compassion to include all animals.”

The imagery in this guide would not be possible without We Animals Media. To view more of this project or to support its mission, please visit


  1. Shannon March 12, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    The rooster and chicken actually mate, the rooster doesn’t just have to be present. How else would passing genetics be possible ?

  2. Kelly January 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm - Reply

    I visited a farm sanctuary and while we were touring the little hen house, we came upon an egg that one of the hens had laid. The guide explained to us that the shell provides vital nutrients that are lost when the hen lays its egg. All of the chickens had their eyes on it because they knew what was going to happen next – he threw the egg on the floor and let it break into pieces. The hens ran over and completely devoured every last bit of that broken egg.

    It was quite surprising!

    • KD January 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm - Reply

      That’s awesome! I was surprised to find that the chickens eat the eggs too!

      • Mersay March 8, 2017 at 12:34 am - Reply

        Chicken are cannibals, after chicken was fried up for dinner, we grind bones up and what ever eggs was consumed that day for cakes or breakfast, the shells were added to the corn or other items you have for chicken feed. Hogs like eggs, was added to cow feed and goat and sheep. Dogs are cow scraps or any animal butcher up. That was used to feed our family and neighbors that need help. Am I vegan? No, do I choose to go to vegan store or restrauants. I sure do, but I still want beef and other forms of protein in my diet. Do I believe a chicken mourns her egg missing. I’d have to say no, I’ve found eggs in places you wouldn’t think to imagine. But I pose a question to all vegetarians and vegan. Do plants hurt when we harvest them or cut those flowers off its roots for shoe. Studies have shown that all plants respond to voices, music, vibration and just plane sound. Does that hurt when I bite into a crunchy apple. Just as a human if you hit it or drop it, does it bruise? Yes!! I don’t believe in animal testing or people that torture or mistreat animals. But I also feel plants feel, just like us and our animal Kingdom we need water food and light to survive. Just one person thoughts.

        • MoiBis September 13, 2018 at 6:27 am - Reply

          Then I will try to answer your question. I don’t know. I know for a fact however that biting into an apple can’t hurt, unless maybe if it is still attached to the tree, then again, I don’t know. Bruising doesn’t mean it hurts. So I don’t know if plants can feel or not. What I know however is that vegans eat less plants than meat eaters indirecty. You really care that much about plants feelings, go vegan, you will save lives. We need water, food and light to survive, you are right. But we don’t need to eat animals to survive. So let’s try to do our best and limit as much as we can the suffering we cause.

  3. March 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Your Daily Vegan, Sally Vail-Williams. Sally Vail-Williams said: RT @YourDailyVegan: My friend the chicken can be your friend the chicken if you want him to be #vegan […]

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HELLO! I'm KD Angle-Traegner.

Writer, activist, and founder of Four Urban Paws Sanctuary. I’m on a mission to help people live a vegan life. Read more about KD…