Knowledgebase > Broiler (Meat) Chickens

Broiler (Meat) Chickens

Last updated 6 August 2020

Broiler chickens, used for their meat, live miserably in appalling conditions. Broiler chickens are sweet, affectionate birds, known to purr in delight when they are given head scratches.

In the year 2018/19, 653 million chickens were slaughtered in Australia alone, while globally 66 billion chickens are slaughtered every year. Chickens are the largest number of intensively farmed animals in Australia and live the shortest lives of all animals kept in intensive meat production.

 

Rapid Growth

Broiler chickens have been selectively bred and genetically manipulated over years to grow at a rate 300 times faster than that of birds bred in the 1960s, reaching 2.2 kilograms in just 35 days.

Drug use

Chickens commonly have coccidiostats put into their feed. Coccidiostats are a nicarbazin which is an antibiotic type drug used frequently in the broiler industry. Traditionally they are used to treat coccidiosis (a parasitic disease resulting from infestation of the alimentary canal).

Slaughter

Broiler chickens are slaughtered between 6 and 8 weeks old at around 3kg. Chickens are depopulated from sheds in the darkness of night and often handled very roughly by workers.

Information from Animal Liberation's 2011 Investigation

Two types of drugs were found in the chicken feed. Nicarbazin was found in Inghams in Queensland and Baiada in South Australia when the chickens were 5 weeks of age. We also found salinomycin at a Cordina farm in New South Wales in feed for chickens of 3 weeks of age. Both of these drugs are antibiotic type drugs and are used to stop the occurrence of coccidiosis.

Health issues

With this rapid growth of broiler chickens comes a variety of different health complications. Splayed legs, difficulty walking and joint problems are all common conditions suffered by broiler birds. Birds commonly become too heavy to lift their own body weight, causing them to be unable to access food or water.

Breeding

Breeder flocks are obtained from eggs that have undergone extensive breeding and selection programs, used to develop chicken strains that grow rapidly in a short period of time.

The hatchery

Eggs are incubated for a total of 21 days before hatching. Once hatched, broiler chickens are sorted to remove any deformed, sick or abnormal chickens. The chicks that are removed are then killed on-site.

On the farm

Meat chickens in total confinement systems are farmed in large sheds. The sizes of the sheds can vary, however typical sheds are 150 meters long and 15 meters wide, housing up to 40,000 chickens in each. The largest sheds can house up to 60,000 broiler chickens.

Same species feeding

Same species feeding is common in Australia. That is, dead birds are collected, rendered and added to feed that is given to chickens to eat.

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