The following was anonymously sent to EON (Environmental Organizers' Network) along with numerous photographs depicting what is described below.  It was submitted by EON into the Hermes, Wesleyan's progressive magazine.  It is a true personal account of an individual's repeated visits to a Connecticut egg farm.

"Inside the Battery Shed"
By Anonymous

The first visit...
We went in the other night, through the manure pit door.  We had to step over a dead hen in the doorway.  It was Shed 7 based on our counting.  We quickly changed our clothes and boots in order to maintain biosecurity.  (Such measures were necessary because the stress from living in overcrowded, dirty conditions impairs the immune systems of battery hens making them very susceptible to disease. Furthermore, the overcrowding of the hens encourages the spread of contagious diseases, so it is important that every one who enters the shed be free of contaminants).

Immediately I was surprised to see a number of hens resting atop the huge piles of shit.  A part of me was glad for them, those free from cages, but also sad.  I knew that they would soon die of thirst.  There is no water to drink in the manure pit.  Before entering I thought we would be heading straight up top, in a hurry to see the infamous battery cages; I was struck by how much there was to see below.  Live hens, dead hens, and demolished hens.  There was at least one bird smashed to smithereens with head off, legs off, feathers lightly spread.  I cannot imagine what could have caused such violent destruction, but I hope she was dead before the deconstruction of her body.  We tried to record the cruelty, the haunting atmosphere.  I took many photos, but I know that only a visit can portray accurately the battery cage shed.

We climbed the ladder up, getting dust on ourselves, and there we were staring at the battery cages.  There were cages upon cages, upon cages, upon cages.  Stacked four high with six rows with cages on either side of a row.  Later we counted 381 cages in a length, making 18,288 cages per shed.  The average seemed to be five hens per cage, making 91,440 hens per shed.  13 sheds means over one million hens at the farm.  The cages were measured roughly 16 inches wide, 21 inches deep and 18 inches high.  2.33 ft2 for the hens to share.  No room to flap wings.

I was shocked by the amount of defeathering.  Some of these birds were naked, with highly irritated skin.  The feathers they did have were hard and brittle.  So dry, but everything in there was.  (At the time I had never held a healthy chicken.  I have since had the opportunity; the difference is startling.)

The hens can sense tension, so we took every effort to remain calm. They did not react to flash photography, or mind me measuring their cages.  We walked the whole length of the massive shed.  At the front we came to all the egg collecting machinery.  I wondered, how much human involvement is there?

At the front we found a mortality chart: 70 hens died in that shed alone that day.  Multiply this by 13 sheds on the farm.  That is a lot for one farm, but with over a million there, what are a few hundred dead ones to them?  We continued observing and investigating, and eventually made our way back to the rear of the shed.  There in a corner we found a barrel half full of dead hens.

Surrounded by all this death, suffering, and blatant cruelty you would expect, you would hope one would be in tears, and by the end my companion was, but for myself those feeling were forcibly put aside.  The conditions were so horrible, how can one be compassionate and walk around in there?  Tears come more easily now in reflection than while inside.  It is just too overwhelming.  With almost a hundred thousand hens in that shed alone it is hard to realize their individuality.  I got the feeling inside that I wanted to liberate them all, every last hen.  For most of the birds it is too late.  Their feathers fell off long ago, and have never known a freedom they could even dream of.  The struggle is more personal than ever.  I will keep going back, keep investigating, keep liberating until battery cages are banned, an antiquated horror.

One week later...
We went in again the other night, same shed, same routine.  I thought that since I had done it once already it would be nothing, I was prepared.  I could not have imagined the conditions would be so much worse in just one week.  The half a barrel of dead hens had exploded to three full ones next to a huge pile of dead hens.  There were as many as six or seven dead hens lying in one aisle.  I could not believe there were even more: a few milk crates full and more barrels at the far end.  Dead hens were left in cages too.  I was shocked by it all.  And the live hens had no feathers at all.  How could it have gotten so much worse?

There were flies swarming around us at times, and rats, dead and alive.  With so many dead hens around, flies and rats are not too surprising, neither is disease.  It is as if the farm management was mocking our careful efforts to for biosecurity with their complete disregard for keeping out potential contagions.  The time we spent in there went by so quickly as we tried to record the horrible conditions.  We spent so little time paying attention to the hens in cages because everything else was so bad.  I cannot stress enough how much worse everything was than in my last entry.

We helped a hen free herself from being stuck in the bars her cage, allowing her access for food and water again.  Helping that one hen helps me deal with the lingering reek of chicken shit that the laundry could not eliminate.

One and one half weeks later...
Last night we went back to the farm, the factory farm.  We headed straight to "Shed 7," again through the manure pits.  Immediately we were hit by the smell and saw the familiar piles of shit.  Then my friend looked up and exclaimed, "The chickens are all gone."  There were no more chickens.  To be exact, there were still some around on the manure.  I went over to one and she just sat in the corner near a pile of snow as I approached.  I picked her up and realized why she had not moved.  She was sitting on an egg.  After all that time in a cage in which her eggs would roll away from her she still wanted to sit on her laid egg.

We then climbed the ladder upstairs.  At once I was glad I had a dust mask, as there was so much ammonia it was difficult to breathe.  We moved quickly, but stopped many times to photograph rotting hens in cages.  We recorded as many as we could, but eventually we had to move on; the ammonia was too strong.  The hens that remained decomposing in the cages were in a state I was hardly prepared for.  Thinking of it now brings back the indescribable smell of the sheds.  We made haste back down.  I never thought I would find the air in a manure pit so refreshing.

We went to another shed.  The chickens were in better shape here than in "Shed 7," but the cages were so full: up to ten in a cage!  The hens were already suffering from feather loss.  Ten hens will not last long in a cage so small.  The nature of the cycle became clear to me: fill the cages with ten hens and then once half of them have died empty the shed and start over again.

We then went to another shed.  This shed was further along in the cycle.  Greater numbers were dying each day according to the mortality charts.  There was more feather loss.  Dead hens in cages, even an extremely decomposed hen in a cage being sat upon by the remaining hens.  It was all so draining; it wears on you.  A couple of hours inside was as much as we could handle, and we left on edge.  I cannot imagine what it takes to work there, or rather what you would have to lose.

I left eager to share my experience, to share my newfound knowledge.  I had no comprehension of what the conditions for hens were like before our investigation.  Even now, I still cannot begin to imagine what life would be like being spent entirely in a battery cage.