Farm to Table

Chicken Farm

Video courtesy of Alberta Chicken Producers

Chicken farmers are busy preparing their barns for new flocks even before the chicks break through the fertilized eggs at the hatchery. The entire barn and all equipment is cleaned and readied for the arrival of the new chicks, including putting down a fresh layer of soft, clean bedding. Everything must be in order for the new arrivals because they will require a lot of care.

In Canada, chickens raised for meat are not raised in cages. Check out the video above. All chicken barns in Canada look like this – with freedom to roam.

Farms can certainly be bigger or smaller, but the average farm in Canada receives about 36,000 chicks. It is on the chicken farm where they will grow from chicks to chickens, ready for the market.

Although the barn is large, farmers section off a portion of it for the new chicks. Less than 48 hours old, the young hatchlings must be kept warm and heat lamps placed close to the ground will be used to keep them comfortable. Once the chicks arrive, the crates are gently tipped over, below knee height, and the chicks quickly begin exploring their new surroundings while learning where the feed and nipple drinkers are located. Temperatures are checked several times a day during these delicate first two weeks to make sure these little birds are getting the heat they need to be comfortable and thrive.

Temperatures are gradually brought down because these chickens, now fully feathered, are able to regulate their body heat better than they could as chicks.

Though chickens can roam through the barn as they please, they do like to stay near each other because they are social animals. That’s where the saying “Birds of a feather flock together” comes from.

Even though the chickens are older and stronger, farmers will continue to walk through the barn several times a day to examine the birds’ health, check water and feed lines, and ensure the automated, computerized equipment is functioning properly.

On most farms, the chickens are ready to be marketed as broilers at about 35 to 36 days of age when they weigh around 2 kilograms. Less commonly, birds are marketed as roasters between 45 and 55 days of age when they weight between 3 and 4 kilograms, and smaller birds or Cornish hens may be sold at around 1kg.

Most chickens in Canada are raised indoors. This protects the birds from predators like foxes, weasels and skunks and also reduces the chances of the birds being exposed to disease. Protecting birds from pathogens is the practice of biosecurity. Other measures taken by farmers include changing into clean coveralls and boots before going into the barn so any pathogens from outside are not brought inside, and accidentally passed on to the chickens. All Canadian chicken farmers are certified on the Animal Care Program and the On-Farm Food Safety Assurance Program.

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