Despite common misconceptions, meat chickens are not kept in cages. Conventional farms have large open barns where the chickens can move about freely. The free movement of chickens in conventional barns can be extensive, as confirmed by the company's own research and documented in independent studies, such as the study reported by the British Poultry Science journal.*
There are also two different sorts of barns used in conventional farming: "closed or tunnel" barns and "open sided" barns, both of which provide the chickens with easy access to food and water and protect the chickens from the elements. All conventionally farmed chickens are fed a grain based diet with no added hormones or steroids.
*Source: (A.P Preston & L.B Murphy, 1989: Movement of broiler chickens reared in commercial conditions)
There are different types of barns used in chicken farming.
The "open sided barn" is the traditional style with wire mesh side openings, adjustable curtains or shutters to allow the farm manager to control the fresh air and sunlight streaming into the shed. The age of the chickens and weather conditions largely dictate the curtain/shutter management on the farms.
In unfavourable weather conditions, the curtains or shutters may be partly or fully closed to protect the chickens from outside elements. Fans in the barn may be used to supplement ventilation. In hot weather, in addition to natural air flow, ventilation fans and water misting/evaporative systems may also be used to cool the barn.
A small number of Freedom Farmed open sided barns may also use a combination of natural and mechanical ventilation as used in "tunnel barns".
Freedom Farms are exclusively reared in "open sided barns', where chickens are exposed to the natural elements, particularly sunlight, considered extremely important in the early development and welfare of the chickens.
Read more about the "Freedom Farms Barn".
The amount of chickens kept in each barn, is referred to in animal welfare standards as the "stocking density". This density is determined by the amount of chickens (measured in kilos) per square metre of barn floor area. In Australia, the regulations for stocking densities are set out by The Australian Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals, which stipulates maximum densities of between 36kg and 40kg per square metre, depending on the barn type and weather conditions.
Freedom Farms has a maximum of 28kg of chickens per square metre of barn space, which provides 15% – 30% more space than required by the current government Animal Welfare Code. The amount of space provided in Freedom Farms barns also adheres to the higher level welfare guidelines set by the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme.
The maximum density for free range systems is between 28kg and 30kg per square metre of barn space, depending on the type of barn used. This system has the addition of an outdoor run which must be at least the same size as the floor area of the barn (as defined in the Australian Poultry Industry Association Free Range Standards).
As well as the benefit of fresh air and natural sunlight provided by the Freedom Farms barns, they also perches to provide our chickens with the freedom to exhibit their natural behaviour.
Chickens have a natural desire to perch off the ground.
The Freedom Farms "three tier" perch has been specially developed to allow our chickens to start perching from a young age, whilst also providing a better opportunity for exercising and socialising!
Chickens naturally enjoy scratching in their bedding, dust bathing, pecking and foraging. We ensure their environment encourages natural behaviour by including things like coloured objects for the chickens to peck at.
A Freedom Farmed chicken enjoying a dust bath