A chicken farmer’s main goal is to keep his chickens comfortable and healthy because that’s the best way to deliver a nutritious, tasty product. Strict guidelines in Canada for the care and handling of poultry are enforced by a team of dedicated inspectors ensuring that the chicken we eat is raised according to the highest standards. Learn more about those standards below.
Broiler chickens eat corn, barley, wheat and a lot of protein from soy, canola and/or bone 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 chicken production since the 1960s. The barns have automatic feeding systems so the birds can eat whenever they want.
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 and spray a disinfectant on all of the walls and equipment. They also clean and sanitize the water lines. At least once a year, broiler producers will wash their barns from top to bottom with water. This ensures that each flock starts its life in a clean environment.
In addition to the many standards in food safety and animal care, chicken farmers in Canada follow standards to minimize/eliminate the movement of viruses, bacteria and other biological organisms from crossing the farm’s boundary. For example, in addition to hand sanitizing stations at the entrance of each barn, chicken farms in BC have closed, lockable gates and vehicle wash stations at their farm entrances. All farm visitors are required to sign a log book, wear disposable coveralls, and sanitize their feet.