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The short and painful life of a meat chicken

Inside a broiler shed
Inside a broiler shed
Farm Sanctuary

General information:

Each year, over 50 billion chickens are raised for meat and eggs, worldwide. Around 70% of those raised for meat, are confined in intensive systems.

Nearly ten billion chickens are raised for meat in the U.S. annually.

In 1920, it took 16 weeks for a chicken to reach 2.2 lbs (1 kg). Genetic modification has now allowed broilers/meat chickens to reach 5 lbs (2.2 kg which is slaughter weight), in around 42 days.

Living conditions:

Thousands of chickens are crammed together so tightly, they can barely move. Each chicken has less than half a square foot of space.

Broiler sheds generally contain nothing more than feeders, watering systems, and litter on the floor to absorb droppings.

Since the litter is not usually cleared until the chickens are sent for slaughter, the air is polluted with high concentrations of ammonia. This ammonia can damage chickens’ eyes and respiratory systems, and cause painful hock (leg) and feet burns.

Confined chickens cannot do anything to adjust to the temperature inside the shed, so they suffer from extremes of heat and cold. Thousands can die of heat stress if the ventilation system is not working properly.


Shortly after hatching, chicks have the ends of their beaks cut off, without anaesthesia. It is said to reduce injuries from fights. That has nothing to do with pain medication though does it? They also don’t mention that it makes it harder for the chickens to eat.

Health problems:

Broiler chickens have been genetically altered to grow so quickly, their hearts and lungs are not developed enough to support the rest of their bodies. Congestive heart failure is just one consequence.

Their chests are so large that their legs cannot support them, resulting in lameness. This forces chickens to spend much of their time lying down, since walking is too difficult/painful.

Lameness may also make it difficult, if not impossible, for some chickens to reach food and water. Some just die where they lay.

The unsanitary conditions they exist in, cause disease. Routine antibiotic use to prevent disease, has been thought to lead to antibiotic resistance in humans.

To read about broilers, and factory farming in the UK, please click here

To learn more about the factory farming of poultry, read about it here

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