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How Meat Chickens are Grown

Friday, 05 September 2014

Meat chickens, commonly called broilers, are floor-raised on litter such as wood shavings or rice hulls, indoors in climate-controlled housing. With modern farming methods, meat chickens reared indoors reach slaughter weight at about 5 to 6 weeks of age.

Meat chickens, commonly called broilers, are floor-raised on litter such as wood shavings or rice hulls, indoors in climate-controlled housing. With modern farming methods, meat chickens reared indoors reach slaughter weight at about 5 to 6 weeks of age.

Broilers are not raised in cages, this is a common misconception of the public! They are raised in large, open structures commonly known as Poultry House or Barn, or simply as a chicken sheds here in Australia. These houses are equipped with mechanical systems to deliver feed and water to the birds. They have ventilation systems, lights and heaters that function as needed. The floor of the house is covered with bedding material consisting of wood shavings or straw. Because dry bedding helps maintain flock health, most chicken sheds have enclosed watering systems (“nipple drinkers”) which reduce spillage.

Keeping birds inside a Poultry House Barn protects them from predators such as hawks and foxes. Some Poultry House Barns are equipped with curtain walls, which can be rolled up in good weather to admit natural light and fresh air. Most Poultry House Barns built in recent years feature “tunnel ventilation,” in which a bank of fans draws fresh air through the house.

An enormous amount of research has gone into creating the ideal bird comfort that is created inside a Poultry House Barn.

Traditionally, a flock of broilers consist of about 20,000 birds in a poultry house that measures 400 feet long and 40 feet wide. There is regulation that governs the room allowed per bird. More modern houses are often larger (17 m x 162 m) and contain more like 40,000 birds, but the floor space allotment still meets the needs of the birds.

Because broilers are relatively young and have not reached sexual maturity, they exhibit very little aggressive conduct.

Chicken feed consists primarily of corn and soybean meal with the addition of essential vitamins and minerals. No hormones or steroids are allowed in raising chickens.

RSPCA are working on accrediting some broiler growers. these growers have to met requirements of a higher animal welfare standard, for example;

Chickens are kept indoors but with more space (around 12 to 14 birds per square meter). They have a richer environment for example with increased light levels, increased litter density and straw bales or perches that encourage foraging and perching. The benefits of higher welfare indoor systems are less crowding and more opportunities for natural behavior.

It remains to be seen what the market will dictate regarding the price it is prepared to pay for a higher bird welfare standard.