Tell Little Rhody Egg Farms To End Forced Molting

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Originally Posted: 25 August 2009

Tell Little Rhody Egg Farms To End Forced Molting

From United Poultry Concerns

Little Rhody Egg Farms must end their practice of depriving laying hens of food and water in order to force molt them in order to get more eggs.


Eli Berkowitz, Owner
Little Rhody Egg Farms
69 Cucumber Hill Road
Foster, RI 02825
phone (800) 746-3934
phone (401) 397-3033
fax (401) 397-3403


Little Rhody force-molts the company’s hens using a starvation procedure that, by the late 1990s, had been publicly condemned not only by the animal rights community but by poultry scientists, veterinarians, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Little Rhody is not a member of United Egg Producers (UEP) and therefore does not have to meet even the minimal “welfare” standards set by UEP for its member companies.

Forced Molting vs. Natural Molting

Molting refers to the replacement in birds of old feathers with new ones. In nature, birds replace all of their feathers in the course of a year. A natural molt occurs most often and obviously near the onset of winter in response to the shortening hours of sunlight. At this time the hen lays fewer or no eggs, devoting her energies instead to staying warm and renewing her plumage for the cold months ahead. The egg industry exploits this natural process by forcing an entire flock to molt simultaneously. Deprived of food and essential nutrients, the hens stop laying eggs, and their feathers fall out. Unlike force-molted hens, chickens molting naturally do not stop eating, they are not traumatized, and they do not become sick with Salmonella infections the way force-molted hens do. Forced molting is based on the desires of egg producers, rather than being a natural response of the hen’s body to the season of the year.

Farm owner Eli Berkowitz has sought to justify this fantastic cruelty by comparing it to religious fasting. However, fom a religious and/orr a humanitarian standpoint, “One is obligated to feed their animals.”

Forcing hens to molt by starving them has been condemned by United Egg Producers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, and the Scientific Veterinary Committee for the European Union.

Hens in battery cages. Crammed together, debeaked, and forced molted - deprived of water and food for up to two weeks.
Photo from Liberation B.C.

UPC’s Letter to Little Rhody Egg Farm owner, Eli Berkowitz

August 12, 2009

Eli Berkowitz, Owner
Little Rhody Egg Farms
69 Cucumber Hill Road
Foster, RI 02825

Dear Mr. Berkowitz:

I am writing to you on behalf of United Poultry Concerns regarding your practice of force molting your egg-laying hens by means of food deprivation.

It has come to our attention that you remove all food from your hens until they have lost from 15 to 20 percent of their bodyweight, and that you have declined to say for how many days you force your hens to sit crammed in their metal cages without anything to eat.

Since it takes about five to six days for egg production to cease in food-deprived hens, and since hens lose about twenty-five percent of their bodyweight after ten days without any food, it appears that you withhold all food from your hens for a week, maybe longer. It is understandable that you would not wish to tell this to the public. Forced molting by food deprivation has been found to be so opposed to the welfare of hens that it has been rejected by United Egg Producers, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, and the American Veterinary Medical Association. You surely must know by now that forcing hens to molt by means of food deprivation has been scientifically shown to increase disease susceptibilities in the hens as well as increasing Salmonella enteritidis food poisoning susceptibility in people who eat eggs.

In 1999, our organization received a packet of documents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture describing in detail the pathologic effects of food deprivation on hens. Agricultural Research Service immunologists have not only documented their findings in repeated studies; they have condemned the practice - the “trauma” (their term) - of depriving laying hens of food to force them to molt. Poultry scientists Drs. Joy Mench and Ian Duncan described the effects in Poultry Science in 2000, in terms of “severe frustration,” “extreme hunger,” and “debilitation.” They called for an end to the inhumane practice.

In July 2004, the American Veterinary Medical Association revised its animal welfare policy on forced molting, stating that henceforth: “Neither water nor food should be withdrawn to induce a cessation of egg production.” The new policy was written by the AVMA’s American Association of Avian Pathologists.

In 2005, following the recommendations of its Scientific Advisory Committee, United Egg Producers amended its Animal Husbandry Guidelines for U.S. Egg Laying Flocks to state that: after January 1, 2006, “only non-feed withdrawal molt methods will be permitted.” The 2008 Husbandry Guidelines maintains the requirement that egg producers wishing to be certified to produce eggs in compliance with United Egg Producers’ Animal Husbandry Guidelines ( must feed their hens.

It is our understanding that Little Rhody Egg Farms is not a United Egg Producers Certified company. As a result, your company operates outside the boundary of even the most modest animal welfare standards regarding the treatment of laying hens in the United States. We understand furthermore that you are using the word “fasting” to characterize what is in fact a starvation procedure in keeping with the adoption of this euphemism by the egg industry several years ago to disguise the truth of what it was doing to its hens. However, no reputable entity supports food deprivation, call it “fasting” or whatever you want, anymore. Depriving hens of all food to force them to molt has been discredited and rejected.

What is more, fasting is self-imposed behavior, not food removal. To fast means to abstain, voluntarily, from all or certain foods. People may choose to fast for health, religious, or political purposes. Other species may fast as part of hibernation, migration, or chick hatching - although hens do not stop eating during incubation but only during the 24 hours or so of hatching their chicks, and naturally molting hens do not stop eating either. I run a sanctuary for chickens, and I know - and can show - that they eat.

Finally, it has been reported by United Egg Producers, and confirmed in poultry science journals and conferences directly from the field, that a “low nutrition density diet” consisting of wheat middlings, corn combinations and/or other low protein, low calcium ingredients can achieve the same molting results as total food deprivation. There is no scientific, welfare, or economic justification for Little Rhody Egg Farms to continue to deprive its hens of food to force them to molt. Accordingly, we ask that you upgrade your molting procedure to one of nutrient restriction instead of food deprivation.

We look forward to your response. Thank you for your attention.


Karen Davis, PhD
United Poultry Concerns
(757) 678-7875

Read The Animal Welfare and Food Safety Issues Associated With the Forced Molting of Laying Birds.

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