Poultry farming is the practice of raising poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, as a subcategory of animal husbandry, for the purpose of farming meat or eggs for food.
More than 50 billion chickens are reared annually as a source of food, for both their meat and their eggs. Chickens farmed for meat are called broilers, whilst those farmed for eggs are called egg-laying hens.In total, the UK alone consumes over 29 million eggs per day. Some hens can produce over 300 eggs a year. Chickens will naturally live for 6 or more years. After 12 months, the hen’s productivity will start to decline. This is when most commercial laying hens are slaughtered.
The majority of poultry are raised using intensive farming techniques. According to the Worldwatch Institute, 74 percent of the world’s poultry meat, and 68 percent of eggs are produced this way.One alternative to intensive poultry farming is free range farming.
Finding suitable land with adequate drainage to minimise worms and coccidial oocysts, suitable protection from prevailing winds, good ventilation, access and protection from predators can be difficult.Excess heat, cold or damp can have a harmful effect on the animals and their productivity.Unlike battery farms, free range farmers have little control over the food their animals come across which can lead to unreliable productivity.
Some free range farming in the UK, which accounts for 26% of production,has also come under criticism concerning animal welfare. This is due to some large scale free range farms where social abnormalities arise due to having large numbers of birds in an outdoor space.Beak trimming due to cannibalism and infighting is common in this form of poultry farming as well as in batteries. Diseases are common and the animals are vulnerable to predators.In South-East Asia, a lack of disease control in free range farming has been associated with outbreaks of Avian influenza.
In organic systems, chickens are also free-range. Organic chickens are slower growing, more traditional breeds and live typically for around 81 days. They grow at half the rate of intensive chickens. They have a larger space allowance outside (at least 2 square metres and sometimes up to 10 square metres per bird)