Can Vegans Eat Eggs From Their Own Chickens? (Even When Humanely Raised)

Many times, vegans themselves are confused about what veganism actually means. The definition of veganism states that no one exploits or is cruel to animals or uses them for clothing or food when it is plausible and possible to do so.

As a vegan, I understand the hardships you face. I didn’t live in a vegan household, so I had to learn what veganism meant and how to apply it to my life. It’s sometimes hard to know what manufacturers call animal fat and what to stay away from, so diligence is involved.

A question I get asked often is, “Can vegans eat eggs from their chickens?” No, if you’re a vegan, you cannot eat eggs even from your own ethically raised chickens.

Many vegans prefer to raise animals, such as chickens, as free-range. They may have rescued or adopted the chickens without the intention of raising them as food.

It is against the veganism creed to sell animal products, but giving animals a place to live out their natural life is acceptable to most vegans.

Chicken invariably lay eggs; that’s what they do, and it’s natural. What do you do with all of the eggs? Some vegans believe that they can eat or use eggs in dishes if they raise them humanely. You know they weren’t treated cruelly, and you’re not forcing the chickens to lay the eggs. Most people argue that it’s a waste of food, as well.

I can understand your position on the matter, and it could appear, initially, to be harmless to consume leftover eggs that are just going to rot away. This question should be broken down further to ask if backyard eggs are ethical and if you should own chickens in the first place.

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hen sitting in chicken coop on nest filled with eggs

Where Do the Chickens Come From?

When it comes to backyard eggs from your own chickens, the first consideration is the sourcing of the chickens. Where did your chickens come from initially?

Chickens usually come from a breeder, and you can search online to find plenty of them. Such breeders only want the female chicks (hens) and suffocate or otherwise kill the day-old males because they can’t reproduce.

The egg industry doesn’t care at all about male chickens and don’t use them for meat. It’s not profitable to egg dealers or breeders to raise or care for the roosters because there’s no profit in it.

Some vegans prefer to buy the hen from a farmer, but this backfires, too. Farmers treat their chickens like inventory or objects. That’s part of the reason why farmed animals are called livestock. In the end, you are giving money to support chicken exploitation, so you can’t technically call yourself a vegan if you own a chicken or hen.

Egg-laying Naturally Versus Manipulation

For most people, that puts a rest to the question, can vegans eat eggs from their own chickens? The answer is no because vegans shouldn’t own chickens. Doing so means that somewhere up the line, you most likely bought into their exploitation.

If that wasn’t enough to prevent you from owning chickens and eating eggs, think about this: Hens are designed to have a menstrual cycle sometimes daily depending on the time of the year.

Most breeders and farmers manipulate the breeding process to produce many more eggs than a hen should produce. Technically, you are exploiting the species and its reproductive system to get more eggs.

Naturally, hens lay between 12 and 20 eggs each year in the spring for reproducing. In the 1900s, hens were producing about 120 eggs a year, and currently, they are forced to lay between 200 and 350 eggs in a year. (source)

Chickens have an instinct to lay more eggs if the eggs are taken from them. Owning a chicken and removing the egg encourages them to produce more. The fewer eggs you take, the fewer eggs they lay.

Laying all these eggs also requires a lot of calcium. A hen requires 2g of calcium per egg she produces in order to make the shell.

Taking eggs from your hen daily puts a lot of strain on her body and can make her calcium deficient if not supplemented properly.

In the end, being a vegan is about not exploiting animals. So even if you’re taking the best care of your chickens, you can’t deny that eating their eggs is a form of exploitation.

When Is It Okay To Own A Chicken?

Rescue hens are those that are taken from farms and factories that have poor conditions. It’s perceived as a compassionate thing to do.

If you own a rescue hen, you’re commended, but only if you do it for the right reasons. If you ascribe to the vegan lifestyle, then wanting to adopt a hen so that it can give you a food source goes against that.

I’ve noticed that many vegans who want to consume eggs use the logic that they’re providing an open and safe environment and are getting a few eggs, too. The paradigm needs to shift as to how everyone views chickens.

If you adopt a dog or cat, you don’t get food or a textile source in return. You’re doing it for the love and attention they give you.

If I rescue a hen and expect to get eggs from her because I take care of her, it’s a business exchange. I’m looking at the chicken as being an asset rather than a pet.

You’ve got to be prepared to support your hen as you might a dog or cat. Though they are relatively inexpensive to buy and free when rescued, you’ve got vet bills, check-ups, and the rest.

What if the vet bill to help your sick chicken was $500? Are you going to pay for it? People spend that much on domesticated animals, but we associate a chicken’s value as lower. This is because our relationship with the backyard chicken is more of an exchange and not companionship or love.

Final Thoughts On Vegans Eating Eggs From Their Own Chickens

No, vegans cannot eat the eggs from chickens they own and raise. If you rescued a chicken or otherwise own one, you don’t have to waste the eggs.

The chicken can eat them herself, which provides the nutrients she needs like calcium. Leave any extra eggs alone because it tells her that she doesn’t need to produce as many.

As a vegan, you must put yourself in the proverbial shoes of the hen. It takes a hen 24 hours and a lot of energy to produce an egg. Her body is constantly working when you keep taking them away.

Focus on her needs rather than yours. Take care of your companion and let her live a comfortable and relaxing life. You’re going to feel better about yourself by doing so.

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

14 thoughts on “Can Vegans Eat Eggs From Their Own Chickens? (Even When Humanely Raised)”

  1. I don’t see anything wrong with eating their eggs if they’re your own chickens and you care for them very well. My hens are all rescued (as are all my animals). The ladies live in their own shed with more than enough room for the number of chickies we’ve got.

    There have been one or two medical emergencies with one of them in the past and I’ve taken them to the vet and all her medical bills were paid for. Basically what I’m saying is that as a vegan, the mistreatment and exploitation of animals are what I’m against, My birds are taken care of just as much as our dog and kitties and are very very much loved, their eggs are just a bonus and not the reason they are taken care of.

    1. Interesting points, Camryn.

      The definition of exploit is “to make productive use of” which no matter how well taken care of, happens when you’re eating a chicken’s eggs. The chicken wouldn’t naturally lay all those eggs unless they’re being taken from them. While I’m not saying this is the worst thing a person can do, it clearly goes against the philosophy of being a vegan which is to exclude all forms of exploitation of animals for the purpose of food, clothing, and other purposes.

      This is how I came to the conclusion that vegans wouldn’t eat any eggs, even from their own well-cared-for chickens. Vegetarians DO eat eggs and dairy so that would be more along the lines of what you’re describing. In the end, what one decides to eat is a personal choice. This article was written to help new vegans understand the parameters of being a vegan since it can be easy to get confused.

      1. This statement “ The chicken wouldn’t naturally lay all those eggs unless they’re being taken from them” is not entirely true. The hen must be broody for this to occur. When a hen becomes broody, the hen will lay only a clutch of eggs then stop laying to sit on them, hatch them, and raise them and once again start laying another clutch. Most chicken breeds today don’t ‘go broody’ and will continue to lay eggs whether they are taken or not.

        1. Thanks for the additional info, Shelby. That selective breeding seems to be the case with most animals that have been bred for human food usage. The industry has produced broiler chickens and broad-breasted white turkeys who end up being in severe pain the last parts of their lives due to the unnatural amount of weight they put on making it hard for them to walk. For egg-laying hens, the act of laying eggs is still depleting to their bodies, especially calcium, and can cause health issues for the hen.

  2. I found this post surprising, but the rationale made sense. My wife and I have owned chickens in the past that we got simply because they’re good pets and can be affectionate companion animals. They’re more intelligent than many people give them credit for. I don’t disagree with the definition of veganism, but I do wonder if the prohibition against making productive use of animals is always in the best interest of the animal. With dogs in particular, I’ve noticed that they seem to get a sense of satisfaction from being helpful and doing “work” for you, even if the tasks are arbitrary and made up and conversely can get depressed if left to just lay about the house all day. I can imagine circumstances in which “exploiting” animals might be good for their mental health.

    1. Hi Joe,
      In the example of dogs wanting a job, that goes along the lines of the dog’s mental well-being. Dog ancestors (wolves) would naturally be working and have jobs in a wild pack, whether it be hunting or raising young. If you have dogs at home, it’d be detrimental to their well-being to not give them things to do and instead force them to lay around all day. The main difference is that the dog should be deriving pleasure from the task. Dog training is an entirely different topic but if you’re using positive reinforcement training so there are no negative consequences to your dog for not participating, that is a great way to make sure your dog’s mental state is well taken care of. Dogs are also pack animals so they need to be around other dogs or humans. I wouldn’t define adopting a dog to prevent them from being euthanized as exploitation.

      In the case of chickens, I think it’s a little different. There isn’t a huge unadopted chicken population. The majority of chicken breeders breed chickens for meat or egg-laying purposes. So even if you’re buying chickens as pets, you’re still supporting the breeder’s business practices. That’s just something to think about whether that bothers you or not. Also, chickens lay eggs with the purpose to produce more chickens. If you’re interrupting that cycle by not having a rooster or taking the eggs for your own eating purposes, I think that’s when it strays into not following veganism. After a certain point, your pet chicken will stop laying eggs. Hopefully, you’ll still want to keep them but many people don’t at that point.

      I also agree that chickens are more intelligent than given credit. You can clicker train a chicken just like you would a dog (which I did in my past career). All the best!

      1. If I supplement a hen’s diet with calcium and do not harvest all her eggs on the same day does that reduce the cruelty for a hen I have no intention of eating? I also want to breed my own flock of chickens to avoid the culling of male chicks. Should I also give up the consumption of honey out of consideration for the bees?

  3. For a long time I’ve wondered why vegans wouldn’t eat eggs especially if they came from their own chickens thay were humanely raised. This was really interesting and made some points I had never thought of! Thanks!

  4. It’s very easy to “connect all the dots” to talk yourself out of every buying anything or supporting anything and pigeon-holing yourself and other vegans into an untouchable/unattainable category, and then scrutenizing others who may be trying veganism and just need direction/morality guidelines. For instance, we buy hay for my horses, one of which was rescued from a kill pen. All 3 horses have a forever home here with no expectations (no riding). All hay farmers fertilize their fields….with animal poop (chicken or cow) and you know it’s not a good farm obviously. But where to draw the line? Perhaps in the future I’ll have my own hay fields and live a more self sustaining life (that is the dream), but for now, I pick my battles. We use their manure for the garden, and we’re certainly not “exploiting” the horses for their poop. I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, my mother raised me that way. We rescued and cared for many farm animals and pets throughout my childhood. We were partially vegan, substituting vegan butter and rice milk, etc. for many years (the easy things…), and then in my young adulthood my brother decided to go vegan and my partner and I jumped on that bandwagon. It was just time. We buy products that are labeled vegan, but we also buy stuff that is “accidentally” vegan. In regards to chickens, I’ve thought of taking in a few hens in the future. My rules: 1) No rooster = no fertilized eggs, and no breeding to add to the overpopulation. 2)no buying the hens for money or trading items of value – hens are listed for FREE all the time on craigslist or other sites. They are often a few years old and laying has slowed down and they are no longer wanted/needed and may otherwise end up butchered. These hens are perfect for the pet hen who may lay the occasional egg. It is interesting learning more about hens, and how they lay, etc. Perhaps swapping the real eggs with “fakes” so she isn’t unnaturally encouraged to lay more than normal would be a worth while solution. All this said – I don’t crave eggs, and never really liked eating them when I was a vegetarian, but if I had a pet hen who I acquired in an ethical way and treat ethically – I wouldn’t hesitate to use an egg to bake with, should my old pet hen happen to lay one. Pick your battles. If you MUST have an egg – give an old free hen a nice home.

  5. Yes, but if a chicken is already alive with the attribute of not being affected or caring about (or likely even noticing) when an egg is taken then the argument of it causing any negative effect to the chicken isn’t valid. Regardless of whether an instinct has been generations previously ‘bred out’. Chickens sometimes lay eggs in the most random of places if they have large enough space to roam, with small hiding places and maybe straw bales, etc, and an egg can be just sat there in a crevice or behind something until it goes rotten and in these cases, the chicken has no idea if it is still there or not and basically has no solid memory of where it even is at all. The idea of not wanting to use anything from the chicken – based on principle alone – is the only potentially valid reason to not use an egg in this case, but really is up to debate and personal beliefs. The chicken really is not being negatively impacted in any way in certain circumstances such as this, and in my opinion, to enjoy the companionship of living with chickens (as the primary reason for having them around) whilst also making use of something that they don’t want is no different to enjoying flowers both in the ground or in a vase and foraging / collecting natural plant produce – from a moral and ‘real’ perspective.

  6. I write as I sit with one of my hens as she is passing.

    I have given her some pain meds and treat her with affection and dignity. I’m often googling chicken health and ethics related topics in a last ditch attempt to save them. Hence, landing on your page.

    She is a rescue hen, like all of our small flock.

    Rather than being slaughtered, an amazing local charity rescues 1,000’s of brids every few months destined for such a fate after enduring a horrendous early existence.

    They live free range with our family and it is one of life’s greatest joys to see them grow back their feathers and learn to be chickens in the relative wild.

    Like a previous commenter, I don’t disagree with your definition of veganism. I dont agrees with the statement “There isn’t a huge unadopted chicken population”. Literally millions of potentially adoptable hens are slaughtered each week! There is no bigger unadapted population among any species in the world.

    None of our hens are forced to produce eggs (taking them away has zero impact of their egg laying btw as per previous comments). I am relieved for any of them who stop laying, knowing the toll that the selective breeding/ modification and excessive laying has taken on their bodies.

    They do, however, lay and we do eat their eggs (as well as feeding plenty back to them for the positive reasons you mention). The eggs are an amazing gift… One of the most perfect food sources for human consumption. The bioavailability of nutrients and fats in an egg are miraculous!

    I would argue our eggs are ‘beyond vegan’. A byproduct of an act of compassion. Can you disagree?

    1. Hi James,
      Condolences about your hen. From your comment, you seem like a wonderful hen owner and take great care of your rescue flock. One can still take great care of their animals and not be vegan. It’s simply the definition of the word: not eating food derived from animals or using animal products. This is a question I’ve been asked multiple times which is why I wrote it out. Not everyone’s situation from how they got their hens is the same but the definition of a vegan is. So yes, you’re a compassionate person who treats your animals with the utmost care, but no, your eggs are not vegan since they came from an animal. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; you just don’t fit the definition of a vegan. I’ve heard people say “I’m a vegan but eat fish.” or “I’m a vegan but eat honey, etc.” If you want to eat your flock’s eggs, go for it. But there’s no need to label yourself a vegan and add confusion. A person in your situation would be someone who eats mainly plant-based except for adding eggs into their diet or an ovo-vegetarian.

  7. I have to agree with Stephanie here about the very definition of veganism. I can put aside the ethical ramifications of eating eggs vs. not for a moment, which is where most people are getting stuck at. You cannot say you are a vegan but you eat eggs. I found this definition of vegan that states: eating, using, or containing no food or other products derived from animals. The egg is derived from the hen, so if you eat it you are not a vegan.

    There are some things that you cannot be partial, for example, you cannot be partially pregnant or partially faithful to a spouse. You either are or are not. I found the argument about manure quite interesting because yes, that was derived from an animal but is often necessary for utilizing for other food sources such as vegetables and fruits. In a sense then, every vegan has trace amounts of animal waste in them. However, horses and cows must poop, it doesn’t exploit them to take their feces away so I understand why the argument goes back to the ethics of consuming eggs and whether it is exploitive. I look at it like this, if human beings were not there to meddle in the life of animals what would happen? Most likely that egg would be fertilized by a rooster, but the animal feces would naturally fertilize the ground to increase the seed’s development into that of a plant.

    So, looking at it from all points of few, Stephanie is correct, sorry guys, you cannot be a vegan and eat eggs. That being said I am a vegetarian and enjoy eggs and milk and am okay with that title. If I decide one day I am not okay with this then I would have to cut out these animal products and only then call myself a vegan.

  8. I think some people may be getting caught up on this word “Vegan” …and may identify with it…I saw a definition above but not sure of the origin…anyway. (in Stephanie’s comment “not eating food derived from animals or using animal products” maybe we should insert the word exploited into this definition) …anyway, I have no words for the way I live my life but I try to live with kindness toward all things. The truth is that these days, we are predominantly unaware of the harm our actions do, we can hopefully try to improve on our naivete, which adds to the joy in life. I liked James’ “beyond vegan” comment though😊…but here again, a new definition will be needed. It seems that this conversation is more about the strict definition and folks calling themselves Vegans. This is not necessary, but if so, then beyond vegan makes perfect sense too. Or maybe we should strive to call ourselves “considerate beings” or (conbe) which will encompass all that we do.
    But the difficulty here is that if the egg is not a fertilized egg, why let it go to waste? And there did not seem to be a strong argument for that, except for the definition of the word Vegan and one being able to identify as one. But there was a strong argument for James doing kindness (Beyond Vegan).

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