Are broiler chickens raised in cages?
No chicken meat you buy is raised in a cage. Commercial broiler farms raise chickens in large, well-ventilated, climate controlled barns where they’re protected from the elements, predators, and disease. They have room to move about the house, access food and water 24 hours a day, and interact with other chickens.
WATCH: Housing and Ventilation Systems on the Farm
Others, including free-range chickens, have varying access to the outdoors, based on farmer preference. A very small percentage (a fraction of 1%) of broilers are raised at specialized research facilities, such as academic research programs at universities. In order to better study bird nutrition and health, these chickens are raised in open pens.
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.
WATCH: Biosecurity and Health Management on Chicken Farms
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.