A question that vegans are commonly asked is: what’s wrong with eating backyard eggs? On the surface, it seems reasonable to assume that there isn’t an issue with eating backyard eggs because backyard hens do not experience the problems associated with commercial egg production. However, we only need to dive a little deeper to discover why vegans don’t eat backyard eggs.

A very brief overview of the problems associated with commercial egg production

Vegans oppose all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to, animals which is why they don’t eat eggs. There are several things about the egg industry that vegans are vehemently opposed to. This includes:

  • The killing of male chicks shortly after birth because they can’t lay eggs and are, therefore, not profitable
  • The killing of ageing hens whose egg production declines
  • The abhorrent, cramped conditions in which hens live out their lives (including those referred to as ‘free-range.’
  • The treatment of hens – which are sentient beings – as nothing more than a resource for human exploitation
  • The selective breeding practices which aim to maximise egg production at the cost of ill-health and suffering to the hens involved

While it may seem on the surface that these issues don’t exist with backyard hens, when we take a closer look, we discover that they do. With this in mind, let’s explore the reasons why vegans don’t eat backyard eggs.

egg laying hen

Hens are not a resource for exploitation

The most obvious reason why vegans don’t eat backyard eggs is that purchasing hens primarily to use their eggs amounts to exploitation. It goes against a vegan’s philosophical belief that animals are individuals with a right to live a happy and autonomous life. The mere act of purchasing a hen turns this sentient individual into a product, placing a monetary value on their life.

Vegans believe we must redefine our relationships with exploited non-human animals. Hen’s bodies do not belong to humans to be used as we wish. They should be allowed to live long, happy and healthy lives autonomously, with the freedom to express their natural behaviours.  

It’s important to point out here that there is nothing inherently wrong with looking after hens. Rescuing hens that would otherwise face slaughter or mistreatment and allowing them to live out their lives in freedom and safety on your land is a beautiful thing to do. That being said, there is still cause not to eat their eggs – let’s explore why.

Excessive egg production harms a hen’s health

Hens have been selectively bred to produce many times more eggs annually than they would naturally without this interference. This has been done to benefit the commercial egg industry and meet the demands of humans to eat the hens’ eggs. However, it comes at a cost to the hens themselves in terms of their health.

Egg production takes an enormous toll on a hen’s body and her health. Producing eggs depletes nutrients from the hen, who suffers health issues as a result. Most commonly, hens experience problems with their bones, such as osteoporosis and fractures. While these conditions are exacerbated in caged hens due to the lack of space for roaming, part of the cause is due to the vitamin and mineral deficiencies caused by egg production. For example, it takes a lot of calcium for a hen to produce the hard shell around her eggs. In addition, many hens experience a range of reproductive health issues which are often fatal.

One of the best ways to protect a hen’s health is to feed her eggs back to her. In fact, when allowed to carry out their natural behaviours, many hens will naturally eat their own eggs. When humans take these eggs from backyard hens, they are denying them the opportunity to express their natural behaviours. The most ethical choice is to feed a hen’s eggs back to them in an effort to support their health and wellbeing.

Purchasing backyard hens supports the commercial egg industry

Not only does purchasing hens turn them into a commodity, which vegans are opposed to, it also helps to support the very industries responsible for the harms associated with commercial egg production. Buying hens from farmers or breeders funnels more money into these industries, and it supports the unethical breeding practices which are harmful to a hen’s health.

Purchasing hens also contributes to other problems associated with commercial egg production, including the abhorrent killing of male chicks because their lives are not considered commercially viable.

rescued hens

How we can care for backyard hens

Rescuing hens who would otherwise face slaughter or a miserable life producing eggs for human consumption is a wonderful thing to do. If you choose to do this and care for backyard hens, consider either feeding their eggs back to them or getting them injected with a hormonal implant that stops egg production, much in the way a similar treatment does for female humans.


While this type of treatment may seem unnatural, and therefore questionably un-vegan, it is arguably one of the kindest things you can do to counter the effects of unnatural breeding that cause the issues associated with excessive egg production. It gives hens a chance to recover from the ill effects of egg production and retain the nutrients they need to live long and happy lives. It prevents them from experiencing the reproductive health issues, which are too often fatal. This is why sanctuary hens often undergo this treatment.

We hope this has helped answer the question; why don’t vegans eat backyard eggs.  Another product vegans are often asked about is honey. We explain why vegans don’t eat honey here