BC chicken farmers are committed to keep their chickens comfortable and healthy. All BC chicken farmers participate in Chicken Farmers of Canada’s Animal Care program, a standard with a strong set of program requirements, annual audits, mandatory regulations, and enforcement measures.
Preparing for New Chicks
Before new chicks arrive on the farm, BC chicken farmers ensure that the entire barn and all of the equipment is properly cleaned and readied, including laying down a fresh layer of soft, clean bedding.
As the chickens grow, BC chicken farmers walk through their barns several times a day to examine the birds’ health, to check water and feed lines, and to ensure the automated computerized equipment is fully functioning.
Chickens eat grain consisting of corn, barley, wheat and a lot of protein from soy or canola meal as well as vitamin and mineral supplements. While the specific feed formulations vary from one feed mill to another, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency closely regulates the ingredients in the feed.
There are no hormones or steroids used in chicken feed. In fact, the use of hormones and steroids in Canadian poultry production has been illegal since the 1960s.
All barns used for raising chicken in BC have automatic feeding systems that allow the birds to eat whenever they want. Chickens gain about 50 times their body weight in about 40 days. In most cases, chickens are ready to be sold on the market as broilers at about 35 to 36 days of age, weighing around 2kg.
BC chickens are also provided with constant access to fresh, clean water that is delivered through a nipple drinking system. The water supply lines are introduced to the chicks when they first arrive in the barn, so that they can learn to get water by pecking at the shiny droplets of water the nipples produce. As the chickens grow, the water supply lines are raised to match the height of the birds to ensure that the water line is comfortable to drink from.
BC chicken farmers clean and disinfect their water lines before each new flock, as well as test the water on an annual basis for the presence of bacteria.
BC chicken farmers have computerized systems that control the temperatures in the barn, keep the air fresh, and control the lighting systems. BC chicken farms are equipped with vents and powerful fans that are used to ensure the air in the barn is always fresh. The vents and fans in each barn are designed to work in conjunction with a heat source, such as brooders or space heaters, to ensure that the temperature level remains comfortable regardless of the temperature outside.
When the chicks first arrive, the barns are heated to between 29-32 degrees Celsius. As the chicks age and develop more feathers, they are better able to regulate their own body heat and barn temperatures are gradually reduced to 21-23 degrees Celsius for fully grown broiler chickens. All automated systems are backed up by a generator to ensure that the systems remain running at optimal efficiency and that the birds continue to be comfortable. Alarm systems are used to alert chicken farmers by phone or pager in the event of a power outage or if the barn temperature is not correct. For this reason, chicken farmers must stay within close proximity of their farm at all times when they have chickens in their barns.
Between flocks, BC chicken farmers clean out the barn, removing all manure and dust. They also clean and sanitize the waterlines the water lines.
Once a year, BC chicken farmers wash their barns from top to bottom with water, spraying a disinfectant on all the walls and equipment to create a sterilized environment.
To protect chickens from predators and reduce their exposure to disease, most chickens in Canada are raised indoors. All BC chicken farmers follow strict biosecurity protocols designed to reduce the ability of viruses, bacteria, and parasites from entering their barns. Protecting poultry from pathogens is known as biosecurity, which includes measures that prevent disease from being transferred from one poultry farm to the next.
BC chicken farmers follow the national requirements for biosecurity put in place by Chicken Farmers of Canada’s On-Farm Food Safety Program to reduce the risk of disease transfer. Some of the national requirements include:
- Keeping all barn doors locked to prevent unexpected visitors from getting inside.
- Changing their boots prior to entering the barn and again upon leaving.
- Keeping detailed log books that record all traffic that comes on the farm and when each person was there.
In addition to the national standards for biosecurity, the BC chicken farmers follow additional standards developed by the BC Poultry Association which require:
- All BC poultry producers (including farmers with turkeys and laying hens) to have closed, lockable gates at the farms entrance.
- Wash stations at the gate, so vehicles can be cleaned when entering and exiting the farm.
- Hand-sanitizing stations at the entrance of each barn.
- Visitors to wear disposable coveralls over their clothing.
- For more information on how chickens are raised in Canada, check out the Let’s Talk Chicken website.
From Broiler Breeder to Hatchery
For information on broiler breeders, please see the BC Broiler Breeder Hatching Egg Commission’s webpage.