Eggs come from hens raised specifically to lay eggs, but chickens that are raised for meat are called “broilers.” These chickens are typically white, and are bred specifically for optimal health and size to produce a quality product for the consumer.
Broiler chickens are raised in large, open structures called houses, where they roam, explore, eat, and commune with other chickens. Some (including free-range chickens) have varying access to the outdoors, based on farmer preference. Broiler chickens arrive at the farm at the same time, from the same hatchery, to maintain biosecurity on the farm.
Many typical broilers have white feathers and yellowish skin. Most commercial broilers reach slaughter-weight between four and seven weeks of age, although slower growing breeds reach slaughter-weight at approximately 14 weeks of age. Because the meat broilers are this young at slaughter (roughly 500g), their behaviour and physiology are that of an immature bird. Due to extensive breeding selection for rapid early growth and the husbandry used to sustain this, broilers are susceptible to several welfare concerns, particularly skeletal malformation and dysfunction, skin and eye lesions, and congestive heart conditions.
Management of ventilation, housing, stocking density and in-house procedures must be evaluated regularly to support good welfare of the flock. The breeding stock (broiler-breeders) grow to maturity and beyond but also have welfare issues related to the frustration of a high feeding motivation and beak trimming. Broilers are usually grown as mixed-sex flocks in large sheds under intensive conditions.