Chickens’ First Day on the Farm
After fertilized eggs are incubated (kept warm and rotated) for 21 days at a hatchery, chicks are hatched, and within hours they are transported to the farm. Chicks are delivered in crates – 100 to a crate, around 25,000 chicks per barn. All birds on any given chicken farm will be the same age, come from the same hatchery, and stay together for the remainder of their lives – this is to ensure traceability (in case there is any issue), and for biosecurity reasons (to reduce the threat of illness or bacteria). The chicks go all-in to the farm at the same time, and the birds go all-out to processing at the same time.
In preparation for the arrival of baby chicks, barns are cleaned and prepped. Farmers lay out litter and fresh water, and feed that is specially formulated for their nutritional needs at this age, to help the chicks learn how to find food. Temperatures in the barn are raised to kill off any pathogens that may exist, and soil temperatures are also closely monitored – a 2” chicken cares much more what the floor feels like than the ceiling!
When the chicks arrive, they’re placed into a designated area of the barn, sectioned off to keep them close together where temperatures are optimal during the brooding phase – the time before they lose their soft, downy fuzz and begin to mature.
Placement of chicks can seem surprising to those who’ve never seen it, but care is taken to ensure that the chicks are not harmed when being moved from crate to barn, and experienced farmers, who are trained in proper animal welfare procedures, keep the chicks’ welfare at top of mind during this process.