30 Nov 2015
Are broiler chickens raised in cages?
No chicken meat you buy is raised in a cage. The majority of chickens raised for meat in the U.S. live in large, open structures called houses where they are free to walk around and commune with other chickens. (Others, including free range chickens, have varying access to the outdoors, based on farmer preference.) These houses are equipped with advanced climate controls that keep the chickens’ habitat precisely within the comfortable range they prefer, regardless of outside temperatures.
Chickens prefer the company of one another to solitude, so a peek inside a typical chicken house will usually show most of the chickens close together in one area of the barn. However, the chickens have complete freedom to roam the barn at will. The only time that a farmer will restrict chickens’ movement around the barn is during the first few weeks of life, during what is called the “brooding” period. During this time, chickens are still covered in downy fuzz that will later be replaced with feathers, and they are less able to regulate their own temperature. Farmers keep the chickens in a smaller area of the barn where special heaters and climate controls are able to keep them at the necessary temperatures as they grow. Once this period ends, farmers will open up the whole barn for chickens to roam and explore as they choose.
Once the chickens have grown to market weight and are ready to be processed for meat, they need to be transported from the farm to the processor. The short transportation to the processing plant is the only time in a broiler chicken’s life that it spends in a cage, for the safety of the chickens while driving. These cages are typically more like enclosed coops, providing the chickens the ability to stay close to one another.