In May and June 2023, two undercover activists documented the horrors of a laying hen farm. Watch the footage that sheds light on the conditions in which hens are kept on a farm belonging to the largest egg producer in Poland and the entire European Union – Fermy Drobiu Woźniak.
Stress, aggression, and cannibalism. Cramped cages, unbearable heat, and swarms of fleas. Hens wedged under the perches, dying of hunger and thirst in slow agony.
This is the everyday reality revealed by the investigation.
For six weeks, Oksana and Sasha worked on a farm operated by Fermy Drobiu Woźniak, located in Wioska, a village in west-central Poland. Day after day, they documented horrific scenes of unimaginable suffering.
Fermy Drobiu Woźniak is the largest egg producer in Poland and the entire European Union. What is it like to be a hen kept on a farm operated by the industry leader?
“Animals are sentient beings capable of experiencing emotions. What’s most important, they need to feel safe. Every day, we monitor the hens’ behavior, cater to their needs, and make sure they live in the best conditions possible.”
- Quote from Woźniak Group Sustainability Report (p. 33)
“There are so many birds, they barely fit inside (…). Sometimes they step on one another. The cages are too small for them.”
The cages were very cramped. One hen who wanted to reach the other side of the cage had to squeeze her way through other hens. There wasn’t enough space for her to even spread her wings.
“Some hens look more like dinosaurs than birds. They barely have any feathers, just bare shafts. It’s a nightmare.”
and feather pecking
Being constantly cramped and permanently stressed leads to aggression. The hens were forced to fight for the limited space and access to the nest. Feather pecking was happening all the time. Cannibalism was also common at the farm. Weaker hens were pecked to death by their companions.
“The floor is made out of mesh, which frequently causes injuries to the hens’ feet, leading to strange-looking deformities. This system causes great harm to the hens.”
The mesh floor of the cages caused serious foot deformities in many hens. It’s hard to imagine the pain they were in when their fingers were literally bent in the opposite direction. No one was there to help. They were left alone with their suffering.
“When I found a hen that got stuck, I tried to help her. (…) When my coworkers saw this, they said: ‘Leave her alone. She’s going to die anyway, there’s no use in trying to save her’.”
The metal pipes used as perches were dangerous for the hens. One hen that got stuck there was left to slowly die of hunger and thirst. The workers witnessed this suffering all the time. There was no procedure in place to help the injured or sick hens. Everyday veterinary care was not available at the farm. Defective cages were a deadly trap for the hens.
Some hens didn’t survive the intensity of egg production. Their bodies were exploited to the limit. The activists found many dead hens with an egg stuck in their cloaca. Blood- and feces-stained eggs could often be seen on the conveyor belt.
One of the workers’ main duties was to collect and throw out dead hens, often referred to as ”the dead ones.”
They used a plastic bottle fixed on one end of a broomstick so that the hens would scatter. That made it easier for them to spot the bodies more quickly.
“This is awful. Around a hundred hens on one floor. Every single day.”
Heat, dust, fleas
The sheds were hell not only for the animals, but also for the workers. Swarms of fleas fed on the birds, but they also bit the people working there. The workers claimed that, despite the plague, no disinsection was carried out due to the costs it would entail. To protect themselves from flea bites, the workers would put on additional layers of clothes. Meanwhile, in the summer, the temperature in the hen houses reached nearly 30°C. That caused heat stress in the hens.
“Many people living in this village complain about the farms. The smell is horrible; people don’t want to live near a farm like that.”
“If I were to describe my time working on the farm using one word, I would say it was hell. Hell for the people, hell for the animals.”
More than 300 million animals in the European Union keep suffering locked up in cramped cages. The “End the Cage Age” initiative was signed by 1.4 million people who urge the EU to ban cage farming.
In July 2023, together with Compassion in World Farming Poland, we submitted more than 200 thousand signatures under the petition to the Polish Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to support the EU cage farming ban.
In Poland, more than 70% of laying hens are still kept in cages.
One in five hens in Poland belongs to Fermy Drobiu Woźniak.
The company’s decision to phase out cage farming would affect 9 million hens.
It’s time to end this!
Give your voice to the hens who spend their entire lives in cramped cages, stressed and suffering. Speak up for the ones who died in agony, crushed under a defective perch.
Urge Fermy Drobiu Woźniak to put an end to the suffering of hens in cages.Sign the petition