I may become a vegan after reading this. I read this in LJ. I'm only posting the facts I read (no info on the poster themself) along with the links that were provided.
from The Hidden Lives of Chickens and Give A Cluck
-When allowed to enjoy fresh air, sunshine, and companionship, chickens are remarkable animals, each with a distinct personality. People who've rescued chickens or kept chickens as companions know that they're like dogs, celebrating "Mom and Dad's" return home with excited sounds. They're feathered "lap dogs," known to snuggle up to be petted, making little sounds of contentment. In free-roaming flocks, a rooster will guard his hens as they take dust baths, shelter their babies under their wing, and develop complex social relationships—a "pecking order."
-Chickens are able to learn by watching the mistakes of others and are very adept at teaching and learning.
-Chickens also can learn to use switches and levers to change the temperature in their surroundings and to open doors to feeding areas.
-The video “Let’s Ask the Animals,” produced by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour in the United Kingdom, shows chickens learning which bowls contain food by watching television, learning to peck a button three times in order to obtain food, and learning how to navigate a complex obstacle course in order to get to a nesting box.
-In 2002, the PBS documentary The Natural History of the Chicken revealed that “[c]hickens love to watch television and have vision similar to humans. They also seem to enjoy all forms of music, especially classical.”
-Like us, chickens form strong family ties and mourn when they lose a loved one.
-Kim Sturla, who runs Animal Place, a sanctuary for abused and discarded farmed animals, has seen chickens empathize and show affection for one another. She recalls an endearing story about two elderly chickens who had been rescued from a city dump. “Mary” and “Notorious Boy” bonded and would roost on a picnic table together. One stormy night when the rain was really pelting down, Sturla went to put Mary and Notorious Boy in the barn and saw that “the rooster had his wing extended over the hen protecting her.”
On the flip side, billions of chickens go from shell to hell on factory farms. Female chicks are debeaked, their tiny beaks—and often part of their tongue or face—burned off with hot blade. Their brothers, "useless" to the egg industry, are tossed in plastic bags to suffocate to death. Hens used as egg layers are total prisoners, spending their entire lives in cramped, filthy wire cages, unable even to spread one wing. Every part of their existence is mechanized—conveyor belts roll food by and their eggs away. When their productivity slows, they're purposely starved to force more eggs out of them (a process called "forced molting"). When their egg production declines because of illness or age or stress, no vet is called. The hens are simply yanked from their cages, often suffering broken wings and legs, thrown onto a truck for a frightening ride in all weather extremes to the slaughterhouse. There they are hung upside down, screeching and frightened. Their throats are slit and their withered bodies ground up for soup and pie fillings.
Chickens raised for food in the U.S. are denied all their natural behaviors and desires. They are crammed by the tens of thousands into sheds that stink of ammonia fumes from accumulated waste; they are given barely enough room even to move (each bird lives in the amount of space equivalent to a standard sheet of paper). They routinely suffer broken bones from being bred to be top heavy, from callous handling (workers roughly grab birds by their legs and stuff them into crates), and from being shackled upside-down at slaughterhouses.
i found out about the abuse the chickens suffer through an article about one of the lotr actors becoming involved in an animal rights group. they mentioned that there are millions of egg-laying chicken that have never touched the earth or breathed fresh air. and that broke my heart.
<name> made a very good point to me, while standing in front of the eggs at safeway. i was talking about the prices and what not (they're really cheap at my store), and she/he said, 'but wouldn't you feel better buying the eggs where you know the chickens have walked around? and not just been in a cage unable to even scratch an itch? isn't that worth the extra two-three dollars?'.