Commercial chicken farming allows farmers to raise high quantities of chickens and eggs at a low costs, providing consumers with an accessible and convenient product. Commercial chicken farming practices aim to pursue economic gains.
Farmers began raising chickens commercially during the 1920s. The discovery of vitamins A and D allowed farmers to raise chickens year-round indoors. The 1940s brought a major challenge with quick spreading of diseases among large chicken populations; the solution came with the invention of antibiotics.
Chickens are naturally free-range animals, pecking the farm grounds in search of insects, seeds and food dropped by other animals. Chickens live in social flocks, composed of a dominant male rooster, hens and their chicks. Chickens raised this way are labeled "free-range chicken." Free-range farmers devote only a little time to care for chickens, providing some feed and a small coop of 3 to 4 square feet of space per chicken, for shelter if necessary. Free-range chickens live an average of seven to eight years, but can live up to 20.
Life on the Commercial Farm
Commercial farmers raise chickens in overcrowded rooms and small cages. Often the close quarters and large numbers of chickens causes aggressive behavior and stress for the animals. Farmers blunt beaks and trim toes at young ages to prevent chickens from harming each other. Chickens eat feed supplemented with antibiotics and vitamins to accelerate their growth.
Types of Commercial Chickens
Farmers raise broiler chickens for meat and layer chickens for eggs. Genetically modified, broiler chickens grow large breasts and thighs, causing leg deformation. Farmers harvest broilers at 3 1/2 pounds, after seven weeks of growth. Free-range chickens reach this weight after three months. Farmers raise layer chickens in small cages that house five to eight birds each. Commercial hens typically lay eggs for two years, then they are exposed to a reverse lighting cycle in order to induce molting. Molting instigates another short span of egg laying.
Commercial chicken farms often build up large amounts of excrement, which can produce lethal gases such as ammonia. If not properly cleaned and disposed of, excrement from any commercial farm can pollute water sources. Farmers use of antibiotics in animals has led to the development of stronger strains of bacteria. The antibiotics, hormones and bacteria chickens are exposed to remain in their bodies throughout processing and are ingested by humans when consumed.
Reducing the amount of meat and eggs you consume and only purchasing these items from farmers using free-range practices can help reduce the effects of commercial farming on the environment and increase the quality of chicken products.