To cage or not to cage: What setup works best for chickens

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Animals, like crops, also have requirements to encourage proper growth and production, which is why farmers provide the basic needs of livestock and poultry. Animal welfare was assessed in the past using a set of five “freedoms.” 

These freedoms mean that animals should be free from negative experiences like hunger, pain, and distress. But animal welfare science says that farm animals should be given more positive experiences instead of eliminating negative ones. 

One example is providing chickens with places to perch. This contributes to their muscle and bone health while allowing them to perform their natural behavior of perching. Giving chickens space to roam around is what also inspired farmers to move away from battery cages. But free-range chicken farming isn’t always a good choice. 

Free-range chickens are more prone to attracting infectious diseases compared to caged birds. They’re also prone to predators. 

There are other risks such as smothering, feather pecking, and cannibalism. Many chickens suffered due to smothering, the event when a large number of chickens crowded together, causing them to pile on top of each other and suffocating those at the bottom. Meanwhile, feather pecking is when chickens peck and pull out the others’ feathers, leading to cannibalism where they would eat the flesh of the wounded. 

A possible solution is to consider furnished cages as the middle-ground between caged and free-range systems. Furnished cages are larger than conventional poultry cages and contain areas for nesting, perching, and littering. 

Choosing the right system for chicken farming depends on the environment and the farmers’ available resources. But whether farmers choose caged, free-range, or furnished cages, it’s important that they should also keep their chickens healthy by providing them with the appropriate feeds and vitamins. 

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