The short, unnatural life of a broiler chicken

39 day blog following the life of a factory farmed chicken

blog_chick

The blog followed the pitiful development of a day old chick to an oversized and painfully lame bird in a barren, crowded shed.

Around 700 million chickens suffer in the intensive farming systems every year in the UK. At least 25% of standard welfare chickens suffer from painful lameness related to their growth rates. All those birds are reared quickly and cheaply to have enough meat to fulfill the average Brit’s demand of more than 2 kg of chicken per month.

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Day 0 09 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day00

I've Hatched

My life as a broiler chicken starts when, just like thousands of other chicks, I hatch from my egg in an industrial incubator. Using the egg tooth on my beak I break through the shell.

In a tray with many other chicks we are wheeled in an incubator cart to where people in white remove our old shells. Half hatched and deformed chicks go off in a different direction, disappearing down a shoot. It all happens really quickly. The chicks like me that are left, get sprayed with vaccine and sorted on a conveyor belt into trays to be sent to the broiler shed.

 
Day 1 10 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day01

I've arrived at the farm

I just hatched yesterday with thousands of other chicks and already we’ve been loaded into crates and brought to a warm but empty shed. I can’t see what’s outside as there are no windows and the door is always shut, and instead of fresh air, there’s a fan running. It’s very bare here except for feeding and drinking trays and shavings for litter. The light’s pretty bright on my eyes and I’m wondering what’s going to happen to us.

FACT CHECK:
Typically, commercial broiler chickens are placed in rearing sheds at one day old and are allowed no access to the outdoors during their lives. These sheds are generally bare except for feeding and drinking points and litter on the floor to absorb the chickens’ excreta.

 
Day 2 11 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day02

I'm exploring

Today I’m not so scared but I am really bored. I’ve been exploring my surroundings. The shed is so huge I can’t see the end of it. It all looks the same. There are shavings on the floor, but the shed is bare. All I can see is thousands of other chicks and the feeding trays. We still haven’t been able to see what’s outdoors and there’s not much to do except peck around in the shavings.

FACT CHECK:
Intensive broiler sheds are barren and do not provide any enrichment for the birds to stimulate their natural behaviour.

 
Day 3 12 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day03

It's very bright in here

I’ve been here for three days now and it feels like it’s constantly day-time. Everything looks the same in this huge shed and as there’s not much to do, we’re just eating. The lights haven’t been switched off since we got here and it’s very bright. There are no windows, just large fluorescent bulbs. This does make it easy to find food and water but it’s not very nice for sleeping.

FACT CHECK:
Typically, intensive chicken sheds are not open to air and are fan-ventilated and artificially lit, so the birds have no access to daylight or fresh air. Almost continuous bright light may be supplied for the first few days to enable chickens to find food and water.

 
Day 4 13 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day04

Huddling together

I’m four days old now and after another morning pecking around the shed I am having a rest. When we’re tired or scared some of us chicks cuddle together to stay warm but it’s hard to sleep as it’s bright all the time from the artificial light.

FACT CHECK:
Throughout their lives, chickens will naturally congregate together for security and perhaps warmth, especially when resting. In intensive broiler sheds, almost continuous bright light may be supplied for the first few days of life to enable chickens to find food and water.

 
Day 5 14 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day05

Frustration sets in

It’s day five and I’m feeling quite playful but there’s just not much to do. The whole shed is flat and open the only thing I have found to play with is the feeders. So I am getting in and out of the feeder and attempting to perch. It’s not much fun because I keep falling off. As we can’t get to daylight and fresh air they’ve got a big fan, but the air is getting pretty stale now. Some of the chicks don’t seem as energetic. There’s one beside me who’s really quiet.

FACT CHECK:
Modern chickens descend from the wild red jungle fowl. Roosting is a natural behaviour of jungle fowl and their domesticated relatives but in a standard intensive broiler shed, chickens have nothing to perch on. An environment that fails to address the chicken natural behaviour is likely to lead to higher incidence of health problems (e.g. lameness, hock burns).

 
Day 6 15 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day06

There have been some mortalities

Some of us are getting ill. I don’t know what’s going on, the people in wellies have taken some of the birds away. I can’t see the quiet ones any more. I don’t feel great myself, I’m getting bigger and my legs are longer but I still don’t have a perch to climb onto so I’m just sitting on the floor. I don’t like it here and I want to get out.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive broiler production, a typical mortality rate is 1% per week, compared to 0.25% in slower-growing broiler chickens which are generally reared in less intensive systems, and 0.14% per week in young laying hens.

 
Day 7 16 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day07

Sleeping in our own excrement

It has been one week since I arrived in this large bare shed and not much has changed. The light isn’t on 24 hours any more but we have all been living, sleeping and toileting in the same floor shavings. I wonder if they’re going to leave us like this as it’s getting pretty dirty.

FACT CHECK:
Litter is usually not cleaned out during the lifetime of the chickens. After the first few days of life, light intensity is progressively decreased to reduce the birds’ activity, until the birds have just enough light to see to eat and drink.

 
Day 8 17 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day08

My first week in a factory farm

A DISMAL LIFE

Only seven days ago, I was being loaded into this huge barren shed with thousands of other chicks. My first week of life has been one of almost constant light, but no daylight, as there are no windows in here. I have walked around some of the shed and there is no access to the outdoors, all we have is in this shed, which consists of only feeders and drinkers. On some days I have felt playful, but I have nothing to play with or nowhere to perch. I can only scratch around in the floor shavings which haven’t been changed yet, I have to sleep and toilet in these too. Some huge fans have now been switched on and the food keeps coming as my appetite is increasing.

FACT CHECK:
Typically, commercial broiler chickens are placed in rearing sheds at one day old and are allowed no access to the outdoors during their lives. The sheds are barren and do not provide any enrichment for the birds to stimulate their natural behaviour. Litter is usually not cleaned out during the lifetime of the chickens and almost continuous bright light may be supplied for the first few days of life to enable chickens to find food and water.

You can help stop this suffering by signing up.

In the free-range farm – another chicken’s first week

I CAN FEEL A BREEZE

I have been at my free-range farm for a week now, we were all loaded in a large barn which has windows and straw bales and places for us to eat and drink. I can’t get access to the outdoors, but there are lots of doors around the bottom of the shed and I can feel the breeze coming in. The main door has been open but I am too small to jump over. I have been spending some time pecking at the straw bales, and running around with the other chicks.

FACT CHECK:
Typically, commercial free-range chickens will not have access to the outdoors as soon as they arrive at the farm. Natural daylight will shine into the sheds and the pop holes will be opened once the chicks are larger.

 
Day 9 18 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day09

I’m eating so much

It’s the 9th day here and I’m not sure what’s wrong with me. I feel constantly hungry and I’ve been eating a lot of the time. There is plenty of food, but the feeders are always quite crowded. I seem to be gaining weight quickly and growing quite fast, so there is now less space to move around.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive chicken production, fast-growing breeds are used. Chickens grow very rapidly and have large appetite. They reach slaughter weight within about 39 days, whereas they would not naturally reach adult weight until 5-6 months.

 
Day 10 19 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day10

Getting in a flap

I have been moving round the shed today and looking for somewhere to perch but it’s just bare and bleak. I’ve been spending some of my day stretching and flapping my wings, but my energy seems wasted with nothing to do. I can’t even find somewhere to sit off the ground. I have spent some time scratching around, but the litter has not been changed so it is getting wetter and dirtier.

FACT CHECK:
Modern chickens originate from the wild red jungle fowl. In a natural environment, chickens are active animals and would spend their day foraging for food, scratching the ground looking for insects and seeds. In intensive broiler sheds, chickens live in a barren environment and have nothing to perch on. Litter is usually not cleaned out during the lifetime of the chickens.

 
Day 11 20 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day11

It’s getting darker

Today it’s got darker as the artificial lights have been turned down. With no windows in the shed I can just about see to reach the food and water, but it is better for resting in. We are all eating lots and growing fast and I am much larger than last week. The feeders are getting crowded and there is a lot less space as we all grow so quickly.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive broiler sheds, the lighting is often kept low but may be kept on for most of the 24 hours to encourage the birds to keep eating. A short period of at least 4 hours of darkness is required to enable the chickens to rest.

 
Day 12 21 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day12

Feeling fed up

The lights are still at a low level and there seems to be less activity in the shed. Some chickens are not moving much at all. Last week we were more playful, despite there being little to do in here, but we’re growing so fast we’re slowing down and with less light and space we’re just sitting around between eating. I haven’t been moving around the shed much recently.

FACT CHECK:
Intensively reared chickens are very inactive. Fast-growing meat chickens spend much of their time lying down, as their heavy weight leaves them no spare energy for exercise.

 
Day 13 22 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day13

Trying to feed in the crowds

We are all growing very quickly and there is less space to move about now. I am trying to walk to the feeder, but there are hungry chickens all around me and it’s hard to move around. Wherever I turn there are other chicks or feeding trays. We’re not allowed outside, all we have in here is chicken feed and water and the only thing I can do is peck around in the dirty litter or the feeding trays. There isn’t much for me to do.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive broiler sheds, chickens grow very rapidly. As they grow larger, they have increasingly little space to move. A typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than a A4 sheet of paper.

 
Day 14 23 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day14

Still sleeping in the same dirty litter

It has been two weeks since I arrived in this vast, dismal shed. It‘s frustrating that there isn’t much for me to do. We are all still resting, pecking and toileting in the same litter. It’s getting smelly in here and although the litter is quite dry, it is pretty dirty. The air is starting to get stale too.

FACT CHECK:
In standard chicken sheds, litter is usually not cleaned out during the entire lifetime of the chickens.

 
Day 15 24 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day15

My second week in a factory farm

A CRUSH TO FEED

It’s my second week in this huge barren shed and I haven’t been as active as I was before. I have felt constantly hungry and when I can get to the crowded feeder, I have spent most of my time eating. The artificial lights have been turned down this week and there is much less activity in the shed, not that there is much to do in here anyway. I have been spending less time exploring and more time resting, although it is hard when other chickens keep bumping into me. I seem to be gaining weight quickly and growing quite fast, so there is now a lot less space to move around. It has been two weeks since we arrived in this vast, dismal shed and we are still sitting, sleeping and toileting in the same dirty litter.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive chicken production, fast-growing breeds are used. Chickens grow very rapidly and have large appetite. They are very inactive and spend much of their time lying down, as their heavy weight leaves them no spare energy for exercise. As they grow larger, they have increasingly little space to move. A typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than a A4 sheet of paper.

You can help stop this suffering by signing up.

In the free-range farm – another chicken’s second week

WE’RE OUT!

I have been at my free-range farm for two weeks now and the doors around the side of the shed have been opened. It was scary going outside for the first time and many of the chickens stayed in the barn looking out. The brave ones left first and we followed. Most of us are staying quite close to the shed, walking and running around the sides. I am sure I will explore further soon. This week I found a worm, which was really exciting, but another chicken managed to steal it. Oh well, I have lots of space to find more worms and other fun things to do. I might go for a nice scratch around in the straw.

FACT CHECK:
Typically, commercial free-range chickens will not have access to the outdoors as soon as they arrive on the farm but the pop holes will soon be open when the chicks are old enough. Modern chickens originate from the wild red jungle fowl and in a natural environment, they are very active animals spending their day foraging for food, scratching the ground looking for insects and seeds. When given the opportunity, chickens tend to range widely, using the cover of trees and vegetation for safety from predators.

 
Day 16 25 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day16

Eating around the clock

I am still growing really fast and I am moving a lot less. The artificial lights are not on as much and there are periods of darkness This makes it easier for me to rest when there is nothing else to do. When the lights are on, I have been eating and I am getting bigger every day. Many of us are eating around the clock, even when it is dark.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive broiler sheds, the lighting is often kept low but may be kept on for most of the 24 hours to encourage the birds to keep eating. A short period of at least 4 hours of darkness is required to enable the chickens to sleep.

 
Day 17 26 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day17

I want to do something new

I’ve been feeling curious in the barn for ages now. I peck around but compete with the others looking for anything interesting in the dirt. I get jostled about as its getting increasingly crowded in here. I feel a little bald as the baby down I had is turning to adult feathers. I just poke about with the others hoping to find something new.

FACT CHECK:
Enrichment is limited in the intensive system. There can be several reasons for feather loss in commercial broiler chickens including health or diet. However, all chickens moult their immature feathers. There is increasingly less space available as the birds grow; crowding is likely to lead to more air pollution, increased risk of heat stress and wet litter.

 
Day 18 27 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day18

Struggling for air

The stale air around me is getting worse. I’m struggling to breathe clean air and the thousands of us in here are sharing the little fanned air there is. The dirty litter is now everywhere. I’m feeling really hot and have lost a lot of my feathers so my skin is bare against the soiled ground.

FACT CHECK:
Depending on the ventilation system and litter, the resultant air quality is likely to be deteriorating. The air becomes increasingly dusty and highly polluted with ammonia from the chicken waste. The atmosphere may also be increasingly hot and humid.

 
Day 19 28 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day19

Bogged down with my weight

I am getting very heavy and my weight is difficult to carry. There is very little movement throughout the shed and things are getting eerily quiet. I am only 19 days old and feel like I want to look around, but I am spending more time crouched in the dirt and doing not much at all. There are some birds who are very still and sickly now.

FACT CHECK:
Due to their fast growth rate, chickens in intensive systems have an increasingly large breast, making the centre of gravity further forwards and making balance and walking more difficult. During their short lifetime, they spend over 75% of their time sitting or resting compared to less than 30% in laying hens of the same age. Inactivity is mainly due to the selective breeding or growth but the barren environment of commercial broiler sheds also contributes to inactivity.

 
Day 20 29 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day20

The sick birds give up

I’ve only been here for a few weeks but the air is stuffy and litter is smelly. We’ve been struggling to get some clean air. I can’t reach the feeders very easily ‘cause I’ve got so heavy. There are signs that the sicker chicks are giving up. They’ve taken the really poorly ones away today. I’d like to get up and about but I’m nearly too heavy to hold myself up.

FACT CHECK:
The mortality of intensively reared meat chickens is seven times that of laying hens of the same age (which grow much more slowly). Millions of broilers die in their sheds from heart failure every year. These diseases occur in fast growing birds of only a few weeks old, as their heart cannot keep up with the fast growth of their muscle.

 
Day 21 30 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day21

The dirty litter stinks

It has been three weeks since I arrived in this massive shed. We are still sitting, sleeping and toileting in the same litter that was here on the first day.

FACT CHECK:
During their short lifetime, commercial broilers spend over 75% of their time sitting or resting compared to less than 30% in laying hens of the same age. The litter is usually not cleaned out during the lifetime of the chickens.

 
Day 22 31 August 2009 See Video and Comment

day22

My third week in a factory farm

I’m lying in soiled litter

We are still sitting, sleeping and toileting in the same litter that was here on the first day. As I am getting very heavy and my weight is difficult to carry, I’ve spent the past week mostly lying in my own mess. The soiled litter stings me and I have nothing to do or anywhere else to move to. I’m tired and struggle to breathe fresh air.

FACT CHECK:
In an intensive broiler system, the quality of the air and litter deteriorates quickly. The chickens also become increasingly inactive due to their increasing body weight and lack of space in the shed. The lack of movement and poor litter can result in the development of painful sores on the birds’ breasts and legs. These can develop into breast blisters, foot-pad dermatitis, hock burns and possibly other infections. The birds also find it increasingly difficult to walk, and may become lame as their body weight increases.

You can help stop this suffering by signing up.

In the free-range farm – another chicken’s third week

Life's fun when you're free

I have been at my free-range farm for three weeks now, I’ve started to venture outside quite a bit now and enjoy feeling the breeze through my feathers. I like to spend my day running around and exploring. Pecking through the grass is so much fun and you can often catch a juicy titbit to munch on!

FACT CHECK:
On a free-range farm, the birds have access to an outdoor range during the daytime, and at three weeks of age they are spending increasing amounts of time ranging outdoors. They forage for food and exercise, which means that they can express very important natural behaviour. The birds also have a high appetite at this stage of their development, but unlike the chickens on an intensive farm, they are growing more slowly which means they don’t have the same health problems and are far more active at this stage of their development.

 
Day 23 01 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day23

Can’t stand this burning dirt

Today I am finding my heavy weight is making it difficult to walk. I keep losing my balance. There is dirty litter all around me where the shavings used to be and the waste in the dirty litter is burning my legs. When I try to get up out of this position, I topple over.

FACT CHECK:
Selection for fast growth results in various painful conditions such as lameness (it is estimated that at least 25% of chickens are moderately or severely lame). As lame birds are less active, they spend more time with their shanks or breast in contact with the wet litter which can cause sores or “ammonia burns” on their skin, also known as breast blisters, hock burns and food pad dermatitis.

 
Day 24 02 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day24

Can’t escape the crush

There is hardly any space in the shed compared to when we arrived. Everyone is growing really quickly and it’s getting cramped. It’s getting so warm in here that I almost can’t bear it. I struggle to get away but just find I’m climbing over other birds. We can’t escape the heat; all around is the same, there are chickens everywhere.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive broiler sheds, chickens grow very rapidly. As they grow larger, they have increasingly little space to move. A typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than a A4 sheet of paper. Chickens confined in sheds cannot change their environment to avoid heat, cold or dirty areas as they could in natural conditions. Fast-growing chickens can easily become heat-stressed. If the ventilation is inadequate, thousands of birds can die from heat exhaustion.

 
Day 25 03 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day25

No strength to stand

We have been here in this dirt for days. My legs have gone from under me and I have no strength left to stand or even peck around. There’s so little space that we’re lying squashed up together and my breathing is a struggle. This stench is in my eyes and lungs. I can barely get to the water or move to a cooler spot, if there is any.

FACT CHECK:
With the high stocking densities typically observed in commercial broiler sheds, levels of ammonia from the chicken waste can be high and are associated with the development of heart disease, respiratory diseases and inflammation of the respiratory tracts and of the eyes. Due to their fast growth rate, chickens in intensive systems have increasingly large breasts and lameness is common. Walking becomes more difficult and painful as they grow larger and they can spend over 75% of their time sitting or resting.

 
Day 26 04 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day26

The litter burns my legs and skin

It’s been nearly four weeks now and my legs do not seem to be coping with my heavy weight anymore. So, I’m forced to remain on the ground. I’ve spent days now on my belly unable to get up. The dirt in our litter is burning my featherless skin and it really stings. Some of us have blisters on our legs and feet and it really hurts.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive chicken production, chickens grow very rapidly. As they grow larger, they become very inactive and spend much of their time lying down. Managing their heavy weight leaves them no spare energy for exercise. Prolonged contact with wet litter causes painful sores or “ammonia burns” on the chickens’ feet, legs and breast. Hock burns and foot pad sore are common in intensively reared broilers. Foot and hock burns make walking painful and further reduce the birds’ activity.

 
Day 27 05 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day27

My big body weighs down my aching legs

Despite only being a 4 week old chick, I am spending much of my time lying down. I want to play but I’m growing too fast that my body can’t keep up and it’s difficult and painful to move. My heavy breast weighs down my aching legs so I just have to sit here in the dirt.

FACT CHECK:
Due to their fast growth rate, chickens in intensive systems have increasingly large breasts, tipping their centre of gravity further forwards and making balance and walking more difficult. During their short lifetime, commercial broilers spend over 75% of their time sitting or resting compared to less than 30% in laying hens of the same age. Selection for fast growth also results in various painful conditions such as lameness (it is estimated that at least 25% of chickens are moderately or severely lame) which makes walking even more painful and difficult.

 
Day 28 06 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day28

My eyes and nose sting from the gas

The litter has gotten quite wet now after nearly a month without a change and the air really stinks. The gas from the waste in our litter has now filled the air. I’m now finding it even harder to breathe clearly. My eyes really sting and I’m finding breathing difficult.

FACT CHECK:
Concentrations of ammonia have a detrimental effect on chicken welfare and are commonly observed in intensive broiler sheds. High concentrations of ammonia are associated with the development of heart disease, respiratory diseases and inflammation of the respiratory tracts and of the eyes.

 
Day 29 07 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day29

My fourth week in a factory farm

Squashed up together

I’ve been here just short of a month. In such little time I’ve grown incredibly quickly. The big bare shed we first came to is now almost too cramped to hold the thousands of us. We’re all so big that we squash up against each other and struggle to get to the feeders and water.

FACT CHECK:
The crowding of meat chickens in barren sheds means that they have little opportunity for the natural foraging and investigatory behaviour of chickens. They lack exercise, are disturbed or trodden on when they are resting, have increasingly little space to move as they grow larger and may find it more difficult to reach food and water. Crowding is also likely to lead to more air pollution, increased risk of heat stress and wet litter.

You can help stop this suffering by signing up.

In the free-range farm – another chicken’s fourth week

Sunbathing and stretching in freedom

I have been at my free-range farm for four weeks now. I’m feeling a more grown up chick and enjoy getting out in the grass during the day. Although I seem to be growing fairly quickly it’s not stopping me from pecking around. . I really enjoy an afternoon sunbathing, exploring or having a rest in the shade before going back in for bed.

FACT CHECK:
In free-range systems, chickens have access to an outdoor range during the daytime. The birds have more space both inside the shed and on the range than they do in intensive systems allowing them to exercise and forage outdoors. The birds will typically be active in the mornings and early evening. They may rest for a short period in the afternoon in the shed or outdoors on a warm day.

 
Day 30 08 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day30

Can’t stand the heat

It’s been four weeks here, in this cramped shed. We’re all pushed up against each other now as the space gets smaller and smaller. I am so hot and the air is stale and reeks of ammonia. I’ve been having trouble breathing and often find myself panting for air.

FACT CHECK:
Fast growing chickens can easily become heat stressed, especially when ventilation is inadequate in hot weather. Panting is commonly observed in intensively reared birds, and is often a sign of thermal stress. Many fast-growing birds also develop heart failure and the diseased birds have to breathe more, resulting in heavy panting.

 
Day 31 09 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day31

Scrabbling over each other

It is very crowded in here and there’s hardly any room to move. I’ve been stood on several times today, which hurts and I keep banging into other chickens trying to get to the feeders. The chicken next to me is panting lots and my breathing isn’t good either in this hot stuffy air.

FACT CHECK:
In intensive broiler sheds, chickens grow very rapidly. As they grow larger, they have increasingly little space to move. A typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than an A4 sheet of paper. Fast growing chickens can easily become heat stressed, especially when ventilation is inadequate in hot weather. Panting is commonly observed in intensively reared birds, and is a often sign of thermal stress. Many fast-growing birds also develop heart failure and the diseased birds have to breathe more, resulting in heavy panting.

 
Day 32 10 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day32

More chickens are gone

The chicken next to me hasn’t moved for a few hours and now he has been taken away. In the last day or so quite a few dead birds have been taken out. Their hearts could not cope with the heat and with growing so fast. I’m exhausted and I just sit here in the dirt.

FACT CHECK:
Mortality of intensively reared meat chickens is seven times that of laying hens of the same age (which grow much more slowly). Millions of broilers die prematurely from heart failure, before the intended slaughter date every year. These diseases occur in fast growing birds only a few weeks old, as their heart cannot keep up with the fast growth of their muscles.

 
Day 33 11 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day33

My leg is sore and I can’t reach the water

My legs are sore and weak and it hurts to move about. I am also exhausted; it takes a lot of energy to move out of the way before the other chickens bump into me. The chicken next to me wasn’t moving at all and has been taken away.

FACT CHECK:
Due to their fast growth rate, chickens in intensive systems have increasingly large breasts, tipping their centre of gravity forwards and making balance and walking more difficult. Their legs may not be able to support their large body and they may use their wings for balance. During their short lifetime, commercial broilers spend over 75% of their time sitting or resting compared to less than 30% in laying hens of the same age.

 
Day 34 12 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day34

I get up, but fall down again

It’s very hot and so stuffy. I can’t lie anywhere in peace or on clean ground. Everywhere I turn there are hot and tired chickens. My leg is really sore and when I try to get up, I fall down again into the stinking waste.

FACT CHECK:
High concentrations of ammonia are associated with the development of heart disease, respiratory diseases and inflammation of the respiratory tracts and of the eyes. Fast growing chickens can easily become heat stressed, especially when ventilation is inadequate in hot weather. Panting is commonly observed in intensively reared birds, and is often a sign of thermal stress. Many fast-growing birds also develop heart failure and the diseased birds have to breathe more, resulting in heavy panting.

 
Day 35 13 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day35

No peace and no space

I’ve been here over a month now and feel horrible. My body is big and heavy and my legs are weak. I struggle to breathe and to move about. When I sleep the discomfort eases a little but, I can’t rest for long without being disturbed. I used to be able to move but now I have no energy and it’s too painful. Even if I could move, there’s no space anyway to get away from the other chickens that keep banging into me. I’m exhausted.

FACT CHECK:
A typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than a A4 sheet of paper. As moving is also likely to be very difficult and painful at that stage, chickens will have neither the space nor the energy to move away from other birds. This makes resting difficult and the birds are likely to suffer from exhaustion.

 
Day 36 14 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day36

Nowhere to turn

The heat, pain and cramped conditions are really unbearable. It’s been 36 days since we came here as day old chicks. I have grown quickly and found my weight bogging me down. My leg is now completely lame and so all I can do is lie around most of the time. I’m hungry and thirsty because it’s got so difficult and painful to reach the feeder. It’s been over a day since I could get up to the drinker. We bump into each other constantly, trying to get up and falling over again. I can’t go anywhere to get any space, clean litter or fresh air. There’s nowhere to turn.

Remember: Chickens from intensively farmed systems can end up in many food products containing chicken. At 36 days these birds are only a few days away from going in a curry or sandwich filler.

FACT CHECK:
Selection for fast growth results in various painful conditions such as lameness (it is estimated that at least 25% of chickens are moderately or severely lame) which makes walking even more painful and difficult. When the chickens are too lame to stand upright, they might not be able to reach up to their water containers and they become dehydrated. It is estimated that the birds with the most severe lameness may have been unable to drink for more than 100 hours. A typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than a A4 sheet of paper.

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Week five for a free-range chicken

Life is easy down on the farm

I have been at my free-range farm for five weeks now, enjoying days outside, and pecking about in the grass. I caught my first crane fly today. I enjoyed the chase! Although there are a lot of chickens living here, we have plenty of fresh air and space to move about in.

FACT CHECK:
In free-range systems, slower growing breeds of chicken are used which means that the birds experience fewer of the health problems associated with fast growth on a typical intensive farm. The slower growth rate, combined with the fact that birds have more space on a free-range farm means that they are more active at four weeks old than a typical fast-growing chicken in an intensive farm.

 
Day 37 15 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day37

Burning skin

I’ve got painful blisters that have appeared on my breast. In the last day they have gotten very painful. My skin is raw and the dirt stings the blisters even more. My lower legs also burn from lying in the filthy litter and I have developed sores on my feet. With other birds bumping into my infected chest I hurt even more and I can’t get out of the way.

FACT CHECK:
Inactive birds spend most of their time with their shanks or breasts in contact with the litter. Prolonged contact with wet litter causes painful sores or “ammonia burns” on the chickens’ feet, legs and breast. Hock burns and foot pad sore are common in intensively reared broilers and make walking painful. As stocking densities are extremely high in intensive broiler sheds (a typical stocking density in the EU is about 17-20 birds per square metre at the end of the rearing period, which is the space allowance of less than a A4 sheet of paper), chickens have little room to escape from other birds.

 
Day 38 16 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day38

Starving

The feeders aren’t filling up with feed anymore. I have had no food or water for days as I haven’t been able to get to the feeders for some time now. The birds that could feed can’t get any now either. I lie in the dirt half awake. I can’t go to sleep for the pain and hunger. I can’t get up because my legs are lame and there’s so little room. I’m waiting for something to change.

Remember: When you buy chicken you can choose higher welfare chicken and avoid buying meals or meat if it doesn’t state clearly how it was reared.

FACT CHECK:
Prior to slaughter, chickens in intensive sheds are deprived of food and water to reduce intestinal content at the time of slaughter.

 
Day 39 17 September 2009 See Video and Comment

day39

The end

The people in boots have come in and are gathering us up. I’m frightened. I can’t get up on my feet by myself, so I’m picked up by the ankles. It really hurts! I’d be excited to get out of here except I’m far too scared. I don’t know where they’re taking us.

FACT CHECK:
The processes of catching, crating and transport to the slaughterhouse are stressful, potentially painful if the birds are already lame, and too often cause injury or death from injury, suffocation or heat stress. Millions of broilers arriving at EU slaughterhouses every year are already dead as a result of injuries and stress caused by catching and transport. The slaughter process is also a serious welfare problem. Shackling by the legs is known to be painful and distressing for the birds and stunning in a water bath is too often ineffective (the struggling birds may raise their heads and miss the water) resulting in fully-conscious birds having their throats cut.

 


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