Why we need to make a change for chickens

Approximately 60 billion chickens are reared for meat each year. 40 billion of them are raised in intensive farming systems, often with no natural light or fresh air, unable to peck or spread their wings. They suffer at every stage of their lives.

Born to suffer

Chickens are bred to grow unnaturally large and unnaturally quickly – the result of extreme genetics. Due to their overgrown size and speed, these chickens face terrible suffering such as:

  • Painful lameness
  • Overworked hearts and lungs
  • Wounds including skin sores and burns

Overcrowded and unnatural

As farms become increasingly industrialized to fuel the growing global demand for chicken meat, chickens are bred to grow up to three times as fast as traditional breeds in a short space of time. This comes at an enormous cost to their welfare. An industrial chicken shed can hold tens of thousands of birds. At the end of their short lives, the birds are so densely packed that each animal can have less floor space than an A4 piece of paper. This extreme overcrowding makes it difficult for chickens to move or behave naturally, unable to peck or spread their wings.

Bare and bleak, with no natural light

Most industrial chicken sheds are bare except for lines of food and water dispensers. Chickens are unable to perform natural behaviours, such as perching, foraging, exploring and dust-bathing. These activities would normally keep them active and healthy. Without them. they can suffer both physically and psychologically. Most factory-grown chickens spend their lives in closed sheds without natural light. This means they move less, which can lead to leg problems and even lameness.

Sitting and lying in waste

Litter covering the floor of an industrial chicken farm is often poor quality, so chickens spend their lives sitting or lying in their own waste. Contact with the dirty floor can lead to painful skin lesions on the animal’s feet, legs and breasts. Ammonia in the air can cause respiratory and eye problems. Poor conditions like these can lead to an increase in lameness and skin disease.

You can read more about this in our report, 'Exposing the secret suffering of chickens farmed for meat'.

It's time for change

Huge, barren and crowded industrial farms don’t allow chickens to behave naturally. We want these birds to have a life worth living: that means more time to grow, more space, more natural lighting rhythms and more opportunities to behave like a chicken.

There is a better way. Higher-welfare indoor systems are already in use. These systems give chickens more time to grow, more space, more light and more opportunity to behave like chickens.

Fast food is failing chickens

14-day broiler chicken in indoor system

The Pecking Order report

In our recent chicken welfare report, 'The Pecking Order', we ranked 8 of the largest fast food giants on how their companies prioritize chicken welfare and what they're doing to improve it.

But despite making billions of dollars from chickens, we found that these companies are doing very little to protect them from the cruelty and suffering they endure on factory farms.

Hold these companies accountable

These companies have the power, and the responsibility, to improve the lives of millions of chickens every year. Help give chickens a voice by demanding that they take cruelty of their menu.

Act now

There is a better way—and it’s less costly than you might think

In our latest chicken welfare report, 'Valuing Higher Welfare Chicken' , We found that producing chicken in better conditions is far cheaper than previously believed. The findings mean that billions of chickens around the world could suffer less as cost can no longer be used as an excuse by restaurants, retailers and producers.

Our recommendations

The improvements proposed in the report to give intensively farmed chickens better lives can be easily introduced to most existing systems:

  • Provide ‘enrichment’ – perches or platforms, plus grain or other materials to peck. Floor based litter is essential for dustbathing, comfort, and feather and feet health – all of which are proven to help chickens fulfil their natural behaviours
  • Six hours of continuous darkness per day – allowing the birds better development and natural resting time as opposed to shorter, disturbed periods, with more illumination during daylight hours
  • The use of slower growing birds with proven higher welfare outcomes to avoid the health problems caused by unnatural fast growth
  • Fewer birds per area – maximum 30kg/m2 (6lb/ft2) would allow the chickens room to move and spread their wings, to better use enrichments, and would reduce leg problems

What you can do

Tim Hortons and Burger King commit to improved chicken welfare

Shop better, eat better

Caring about the lives of farm animals is a choice we can all make. The conditions in which farm animals live and die can be improved by our purchase power.

Food produced through humane farming methods, including high welfare free range and organic production can also have health benefits for you, and is better for the environment.

You can help farm animals live a better life by making informed decisions at the grocery store. Get our guide to learn how.

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Changing the world, together

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There’s so much to discover about the animals you’re protecting. Can we stay in touch? Get the latest news, petitions, appeals and campaigns successes by email.