Mon. Sep 26th, 2022

The welfare of an individual is its state as regards its attempts to cope with its environment; therefore, welfare refers to the state of the animal and not to any human care for the animal. The chicken is less often thought of as an individual and few people would ascribe much intellectual ability to it. These attitudes are partly a consequence of the very large numbers of these animals which are kept in one place, partly to the fact that they are birds and therefore harder for a person to identify with than are the larger mammals and only slightly because of any real difference in behavioural ability.


The five freedoms are a set of recommendations for the welfare of laying hens and other poultry. They apply to all poultry in all environments. These are basic ideas of welfare for farm animals, like livestock and poultry, wherever the animals may be, such as at farms, markets, slaughterhouses, or in transit, and should be applied by anyone in charge of the animals or handling them. The Freedoms make good common sense and are broad enough to apply to all farm animals anywhere in the world.

Freedom from hunger and thirstReady access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor
Freedom from discomfortAn appropriate environment including shelter and comfortable resting area
Freedom from pain injury or diseasePrevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment 
Freedom to express normal behaviorSufficient space, proper facilities and company of animal’s own kind
Freedom from fear and distressEnsuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering


1. Care of birds

Animals shall be cared for by a sufficient number of skilled persons who possess the appropriate ability, knowledge and professional competence. A good flock keeper will have a compassionate and humane attitude, will be able to anticipate and avoid many potential welfare problems, and have the ability to identify those that do occur and respond to them promptly. Flock keeper needs to know the normal behaviour of poultry and must watch your flock closely for early signs of distress or disease.

It must carry out a daily inspection to check that all birds are behaving normally and that all systems are operating properly. It should remove injured, dead or individual sick birds straight away.

2. Housing

Materials used for the construction of poultry house, and, in particular for the construction of pens, cages stalls and equipment with which the birds may come in to contact, shall not be harmful to them and shall be capable of being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Accommodation and fittings for securing animals shall be constructed and maintained so that there are no sharp edges or protrusion likely to cause injury to them. It is important to ensure that the design of housing and equipment is suitable for the intended for use. The incorporation of facilities for raising drinkers and feeders to aid access for handling equipment should be considered. Consideration should also be given to the incorporation of weighing and handling and loading facility. Housing requirements depend on the way you raise your poultry.

The design, construction and maintenance of your enclosures, buildings and equipment for laying birds should:

  • Help keep good health and good management of the birds
  • Be easy to maintain for hygiene and air quality
  • Offer shelter from bad weather
  • Limit the risk of disease, behavioural problems, traumatic injuries and injuries caused by birds to each other
  • Limit contamination from bird droppings
  • Keep out predators, rodents and wild animals
  • Minimise insect infestations
  • Help prevent internal and external parasite infestations (and be easy for you to treat any that do break out)
  • Have damp-proof membranes to prevent insulation breakdown, and measures to prevent vermin easily from getting to the insulation material

If you house birds, the floors, perches and platforms should be designed so they won’t cause discomfort, distress or injury to the birds. They must offer enough support, especially for the forward facing claws of each foot. Perches should be long enough to allow all birds to roost at the same time.

You should keep floors, perches and platforms dry and clean

3. Freedom of movement       

On occasion, birds for meat are grown on deep litter which take care of most of the welfare requirements. The freedom of movement of animals, having reger to their species and in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge, shall not be restricted in such a way as to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury. Where animals are continuously or regularly confined, they shall be given the space appropriate to their physiological and ethological needs in accordance with established experience and scientific knowledge. The maximum stocking density for chicken kept to produce meet for the table should be 34 kg/m2, which should not be exceeded at any time during the growing period. This stocking density is satisfactory for chickens reared to the usual slaughter weights (1.8-3.0 kg).

4. Ventilation and thermal comfort

Extremes of temperature should be avoided, maximum and minimum temperatures should be monitored and recorded daily to assist management.

Air circulation, dust levels, temperature, relative air humidity and gas concentrations shall be kept within limits which are not harmful to the animals.

Chicks should be placed in the brooding area when they arrive in the house and their behavior monitored carefully.

Birds should not be exposed to strong, direct sunlight or hot, humid conditions long enough to cause heat stress as indicated by prolonged panting.

Make sure that insulation and ventilation is designed to avoid heat and cold stress. Also protect confined birds from draughts in cold conditions.

5. Feed and water

  • Animals can be fed a wholesome diet at least once a day.
  • Each bird should have access to a suitable water supply.
  • All bird should have daily access to feed.
  • When introducing birds to a new environment, it should ensure that the birds can find feed and water.
  • Contaminated feed and water should be replaced regularly.
  • Sudden changes in the diet, quantity and makeup of feed should be avoided.
  • Feed birds a diet that keeps them healthy and is appropriate for their age
  • Use feeding and watering equipment that minimizes the risk of food and drink contamination and competition between bird
  • Check feed and water at least once every 24 hours
  • Give birds regular access to insoluble grit to help digestion
  • Don’t withhold feed and water to induce moulting. You can withhold feed (but not water) up to 12 hours before slaughter.
  • Don’t feed animals any substance, food or liquid that can cause them unnecessary suffering or injury
  • Don’t use feed that makes the animals who eat it unable to produce food that’s safe for humans to eat

Feed restriction in breeding birds

Feed offered to breeding chickens is a fine balance between offering too much feed and causing suffering due to hunger and starvation. In no circumstances should breeding birds be induced to molt by withholding feed and water. Skip a day regimes are not acceptable. Feed should be offered to the birds at least daily throughout the production cycle with the exception of the day before depopulation. The equipment used to prevent cockerels taking feed intended for hens should be carefully adjusted to ensure that access for hens is maintained and cockerels are not injured.

6. Equipment

All equipment and services, including feed hoppers, feed chain and delivery systems, drinkers, ventilation fans, heating and lighting units, fire extinguishers and alarm systems should be cleaned and inspected regularly and kept in good working order and these should be designed, sited and installed so as to avoid risk of injuring the birds and all these should be maintained in such a way as to avoid subjecting the birds to excessive noise.

Feeding and Watering equipment shall be designed, constructed placed and maintained so that contamination of food and water and the harmful effects of competition between animals are minimized.

7. Litter

In non-caged systems, you must also make sure that all birds have access to a littered area, but this must be deep enough for dust-bathing (approximately 10cm) and easily broken down. Increase the depth of litter over the first 2 months of use to create good litter management.

Litter should be In good quality because conditions such as pododermetitis, hock burn, foot pad lesions and breast blisters are consequences of poor litter quality. Litter should be well maintained.

8. Catching, Handling and Transportation

Birds should be carried by both legs. No catcher should carry by the legs more than three chickens in each hand. Birds must not be carried by the wings or by neck. One possible way of avoiding the potential for damage to the birds is to collect the bird mechanically and it should be humane. Catching must take place in low or blue lighting to minimize fear of birds.

Chicks should be healthy and vigorous, and should be placed in suitably ventilated boxes without overcrowding. Protect the birds from direct sunlight and cold draft. Birds shall not be fit for the journey if it is ill, injured, infirm or fatigued.

According to the transportation of adult birds, the crate in which the animals are carried shall be:

  1. constructed and maintained so that they allow for appropriate inspection and care of the animals
  2. Of such a size as to protect the animals from injury or unnecessary suffering during transport.
  3. Constructed and maintained so that they prevent any protrusion of the head, wings or legs from them. The catching and handling of birds without causing them injury or stress is required.

9. Beak Trimming

Beak trimming is carried out to prevent feather pecking and cannibalism in poultry flocks. Only remove up to one third of the lower and upper beak from any kind of poultry. Done on birds under 10 days old – ideally you should carry it out on day-old should be done by a skilled person or under his supervision.

10. Noise

It should make sure that the sound level is minimal and you must protect your birds from constant or sudden noise.

It should also make sure that ventilation fans, feeding machinery and other equipment cause the least possible noise to disturb the birds.

11. Light levels

Keep poultry in buildings with permanent darkness

Make sure that all buildings have light levels that let all birds:

  • See one another and be seen clearly
  • Look around their surroundings
  • Show normal levels of activity

When a building’s natural light levels don’t meet these needs you must have artificial lighting.

12. Inspection

All the birds kept in husbandry systems in which their welfare depends on frequent human attention and shall be thoroughly inspected at least once a day to check that they are in a state well-being.

13. Disease control

Vaccination, injections, and similar procedures should be undertaken by competent trained persons. Measures to control diseases caused by external parasite should be taken by using the appropriate parasiticides.  

Also consider

Sick birds should be removed from the pen

Sick birds should be examined frequently throughout the day

If it cannot be treated, it should be humanely killed without delay.


If a bird is unlikely to respond favorably to treatment, or if treatment is not feasible because of economic or public health considerations, euthanasia may be the best option to prevent the bird from can be done by using methods such as cervical dislocation, carbon dioxide method, argon method, carbon monoxide method, gunshot, captive bolt, electrocution, decapitation, maceration and anesthetic overdose.

14. Contingency plans

Farmers should make advance plans for dealing with emergencies such as fire, flood, power, or equipment failure, or disruption of suppliers, and should ensure that all staff is familiar with these emergency actions. All the necessary systems such as water, electricity, equipment which is dependent on bird’s welfare must incorporate a fail-safe and/or standby device and an alarm system to warn the flock keeper of failure.

15. Slaughter

All slaughtering systems need to be managed to ensure birds are not caused unnecessary distress /discomfort. The pre slaughtering handling of birds to be kept to an absolute minimum. It is necessary to handle, invert and hang live bird and use a constant voltage to stun the birds. Controlled atmospheric killing systems have been reported to offering improved bird welfare over electric stunning. Birds which fail to be properly stunned must be humanely killed before the neck is cut.

Shackling a bird cause discomfort and pain so it is important to reduce the shackling period to a minimum. However, for an effective stun, it is necessary for the bird to be shackled for a short period, to allow it time to relax and stop wing flapping. Therefore, live chickens should not be suspended for more time than is necessary for wing flapping to cease which has been shown to be around 15 sec. on average.


Broilers are not raised in cages. They are raised in large, open structures known as growing outhouses or deep litter. It is better to install nipple drinkers to reduce spillage and help keep the litter. Always consider that each bird having a floor space of 1 ft2. Proper precautions have to be taken during crating, transportation, and unloading because broilers are temperature and crowding during transportation.


Cages should be designed and maintained so as to minimize discomfort and distress and to prevent injury to the birds. Droppings should not be allowed to fall on birds in lower tiers of cages. Droppings pits below battery cages should be closed off to prevent birds from gaining access. If there is evidence that the claws of hens are found to be overgrown or broken, then the provision of claw shortening devices should be enhanced.


Essentially, animal welfare from a poultry perspective means that the basic needs of the birds are being met on a day to day basis. These needs are: Food and water are readily accessible Freedom to move, stand, turn around, stretch, sit and lie down Birds can see each other (visual contact with other members of the species). Shedding or housing which protects birds from the weather and which doesn’t harm or distress the birds Prevention of disease, injury and vice. If animals are diseased or injured, or there are outbreaks of feather pecking or cannibalism, they must be treated or managed as quickly as possible.



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