A chicken producer’s main goal is to keep his chickens comfortable and healthy. There are also strict guidelines in Canada for the care and handling of poultry. Each broiler producer must follow these guidelines as they relate to On Farm Food Safety and Biosecurity.
Broiler chickens eat 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. Hormones and steroids are not used in broiler feed. Their use is Canada has been illegal for all animal production since the 1960s. The barns have automatic feeding systems so the birds can eat whenever they want. They grow quite fast and will gain 50 times their body weight in about 40 days. This fast growth is due to years of breeding for faster growing, healthy birds.
Broiler birds also have constant access to fresh, clean water. Chicken producers are required to clean and disinfect their water lines before each new flock and test their water annually for the presence of bacteria. The water is delivered to the birds through a nipple drinking system. These lines can be raised as the birds grow so that they are always at a height that is comfortable for the birds to drink from. When the chicks first come to the barn, they are attracted to the shiny droplet of water on the nipple so they peck at it. This is how they learn where to get their water from.
Most poultry barns have computer systems that are used to control the temperature in the barns, keep the air fresh and control the lighting systems. Alarms are used to alert the chicken producer if the power goes out or if the temperature is not correct. Many of these computers are also programmed to telephone the chicken producer on his home or cell phone if there is a problem in the barn so that he can fix it right away. If the power should go out, there is generator on the farm to keep the systems running and ensure the birds continue to be comfortable.
All poultry barns are equipped with vents and many powerful fans that ensure the air is always fresh. These fans and vents also work with a heat source (brooders or space heaters) to ensure the birds are always at a comfortable temperature, even in the middle of winter. When the chicks are placed in the barn, it is heated to 29° – 32°C and the temperature is slowly reduced to 21° – 23°C by the time the birds are shipped.
After each flock, broiler producers remove all manure and dust from the inside of the barn. They also clean and sanitize the water lines. Once each year, broiler producers will wash their barns from top to bottom with water and then spray a disinfectant on all of the walls and equipment. This ensures that each flock starts its life in a clean environment.
Broiler Producers follow strict biosecurity protocols that are designed to reduce the ability of viruses, bacteria and parasites to enter the barns and affect the broiler flocks they care for. Viruses, bacteria and parasites can be carried into the barns on equipment, clothing, footwear and hands. Diseases can be easily transferred from one poultry farm to the next just by the traffic that is on the farm everyday.
Chicken Farmers of Canada, through the On Farm Food Safety Program has put many protocols in place to reduce the risk of disease transfer. The program requires broiler producers to keep their barn doors locked so unexpected visitors can’t let themselves in. They are required to change their boots prior to entering the barn and again upon leaving. All broiler producers have log books on their farms so they can record all traffic that comes on the farm and when they were there.
The BC Poultry Association has developed a Biosecurity Program that builds on the above National requirements. This program requires all poultry producers in BC to have closed, lockable gates at the entrance to their farms to keep unwanted visitors away. The program also requires growers to have wash stations at the gate so vehicles can be cleaned upon entering and exiting the farm. There are also hand-sanitizing stations at the entrance to each barn to stop viruses, bacteria and parasites from entering the barn on people’s hands. Most growers also require any visitors to wear disposable coveralls over their clothing.
Playing Chicken with Mike Lawson: Mike gets sent to the country to learn about chicken farming.
More information on our Animal Care Program: Animal Care Requirements in Canada
From Broiler Breeder to Hatchery
For information on broiler breeders, please see the BC Broiler Breeder Hatching Egg Commission’s webpage.