Canadians Please Speak Up For Our Chickens!

95% of Canada’s hens live in conventional egg farms in cramped, barren cages. But a better life is possible! For the first time, Canadians are being asked for our input on our national standards for egg farming. Don’t miss your chance to speak up for hens!

bcspca-chicken-farm

Simply click here, then click on the bright red box to begin the survey.

Warning: this survey is crazy long!! Maybe they are trying to put people off 🙂

So to help those of us who are concerned about chickens receiving humane treatment and housing conditions (whether caged, free run or free range) I have copied/pasted my answers for each section here for you to swipe if you like!

For the sections that are not listed here, I didn’t have any comments as I figured the financial motivator of having chickens well enough to lay eggs would be sufficient to ensure the necessary requirements were met.

Okay, here we go – click here for the survey and then feel free to copy/paste from my answers below (but don’t if you know more about chickens and have better answers than me!). I actually don’t know a whole lot about chicken farming, so did a bit of research as I went, but otherwise just went off of what seemed humane to me.

If it’s easier, you can also download a text file of my answers and copy/paste from there if you wish. OF COURSE you must change/edit as you wish to reflect your own views – especially if they’re better than mine!

Poultry Survey Answers

Section 1.1.2
If the birds are standing right on the wires then a 1-inch gap is too large. Even if covered with newspaper that is not comfortable. So I would change (a) to read:
a. Ensure that the smallest gap between wires does not exceed 1/4 inch

Section 1.1.4
This is simply NOT enough room for even basic psychological/social welfare of the birds.
I realize we cannot provide a “small farm free range” environment, but a good compromise would be:
Chicks: 16 sq in
Pullets: 144 sq in
Pullets: 324 sq in (I’m assuming this means 18″x18″ of space per bird)
Also, I don’t know if this is specified later on, but height clearance (above the head of the bird when standing upright) should be minimum 3 feet. Sufficient air space (head clearance) is needed to prevent stress.

Section 1.1.5
Again, height clearance (above the head of the bird when standing upright) should be minimum 3 feet. Sufficient air space (head clearance) is needed to prevent stress.

Section 1.2
Points a, c, d and h should be moved from the Recommended section to the REQUIRED section

Section 1.3
I think the “Recommended Practices” section here should be moved to the REQUIRED section. Only 2 hours of darkness/rest per day is ludicrous and would make any animal/human stressed and likely ill.

Section 1.4
Again, b. and c. need to be moved to REQUIRED, not “Recommended”

Section 2.2
Ensure that the gaps between slats do not exceed 1/2 inch and gaps between wires do not exceed 1/4 inch

Section 2.3
From observing chickens I strongly suspect that having masses of moving creatures over your head is very stressful. Therefore, if multi-tier systems must exist, then in addition to having a minimum of 3 feet of air space above each bird’s head, the next level/tier should also be insulated (to acceptable specs) to minimize noise coming from overhead. i.e. Just think how stressful it is to live in a condo where you hear walking and thumping from people overhead all day or night!

Section 2.3.2
Again, all the minimums here are simply too cramped! I also don’t know why single-tier birds get more space than multi-tier birds… Regardless of cage, tier, litter, etc. each bird should have an absolute minimum of 144 square inches each, but ideally they should have 324 square inches (18″x18″)

Section 2.3.4
Points d and e should be moved to the REQUIRED section:
d. Locate perches at varying heights that allow birds to roost comfortably without coming into contact with the top of the cage
e. Limit the angles between perches at different heights to 45° or less

Section 2.3.5
One foraging site (e.g. 1 mound of hay) for 1500 hens is considered sufficient? Also the amount or square footage of the foraging area needs to be specified, or the farmer can just throw a few handfuls of hay in a corner and say he’s meeting the Requirement. You need to specify:
a. square footage of forage area per 100 hens
b. volume of forage provided per 100 hens

Section 2.3.6
This is a CRAZY long transition period – 15 YEARS are you kidding me?? Is this because you’re hoping to reduce farmer opposition? Or so that the next gov’t can easily overturn all these specs after the next election – because NOTHING will have been implemented anyway? As a business owner, I understand the need to implement infrastructure change at a rate that doesn’t tank the business. But 5 years is PLENTY of time, and realistically, these measures should be implemented in 3 years.

Section 2.4
Point a. (Use ramps or ladders with angles that are less than 45° to facilitate movement between levels) should be moved to the REQUIRED section and minimum height between tiers should be increased to 3 feet (36 inches).

Section 2.5
Points b and f should be moved to the REQUIRED section:
b. Position feeders and waterers in such a way to prevent birds from defecating in them
f. Set feed trough heights so that birds do not have to perch to feed (i.e., can stand on the floor).

Section 2.6.1
Points b and d need to be moved to the REQUIRED section:
b. Provide openings along the entire length of the barn at a rate of 40.0 cm (15.7 inches) of width per 200 hens to encourage hens to use the range
d. Provide an overhang along with concrete, pea gravel, sand or like material just outside the entrances/exits so as to reduce the potential for mud holes. This is particularly important in high rainfall areas

Section 2.6.2
This should be added to the REQUIREMENTS section:

1. Ensure that a minimum of 70% of the range area is covered in vegetation.
2. Ensure stocking density of range birds on pasture does not exceed the pasture’s ability to maintain vegetation and density must not ever exceed 400 birds per acre.

Section 3.1
Point C needs to be moved to the REQUIRED section:
c. Monitor and record ammonia levels on a weekly basis. Increase monitoring frequency during cold and/or humid weather

Section 3.3
Make this REQUIRED:
Ensure that ventilation fans, feeding machinery or other equipment is constructed, placed, operated and maintained in such a way that they are operating properly and do NOT exceed 80 decibels

Section 3.4
Point a needs to be moved to the REQUIRED section:
a. Introduce and follow a regular lighting schedule that provides a minimum of eight hours of darkness in each 24-hour period, where hens are housed under artificial light

Section 3.5
These points should be part of the REQUIREMENTS:
1. Litter must be a minimum of 1 inch thick
2. If wood shavings are used, they must be from non-treated wood only.

Section 5.6
This must be part of the REQUIREMENTS:
1. Birds that appear sick or have trouble moving must be housed in a separate recuperation area.

Section 5.8
This must be REQUIRED:
1. Cannibalistic or injurious feather pecking birds must be removed from the flock and housed separately.

Section 5.8.1
REQUIREMENT is not clear or directive enough, “corrective action” is not specific enough. I suggest:
1. Cannibalistic or injurious feather pecking birds must be immediately removed from the flock and housed separately.

Section 5.8.1.1
I don’t agree with the endorsement of Beak Trimming in the REQUIREMENTS. I believe the REQUIREMENTS should be:
1. Beak trimming with a hot blade is not allowed. Only infra-red beak treatment is allowed.
2. Beak trimming is only allowed for isolated cases of cannibalism or injurious feather pecking AFTER such behaviour is observed and then only the miscreant may have its beak trimmed.

Section 7.1
The REQUIREMENTS section should specify which euthanasia procedures are allowed and the specs of each procedure. Consult the SPCA slaughter guidelines.

Closing Comments:
I think we need to take responsibility for setting humane welfare standards for all farm animals, NOT for being concerned about the end price of animal products to the consumer! The point is not whether the consumer can/will pay double the current price – that is a matter of dietary choice. The point is to say: we as a nation will NOT condone inhumane treatment of chickens, so if you want to eat chickens or eggs, you are only allowed to purchase those from a humane farmer – because that’s what Canada stands for. Thank you for making this survey available to the public.

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Hope that helps and I know this takes some time to fill out, but it is one of those things that is SO very worth it!

And thanks to the BC-SPCA for passing this on.

Canadians Please Speak Up For Our Chickens!

4 thoughts on “Canadians Please Speak Up For Our Chickens!

    • June 15, 2017 at 9:10 pm
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      We’re raising meat and egg birds here and it amazes me how far the distance between our backyard chickens and the factory farms stretches. After the recent exposé of horrendous abuse by the chicken transporters in the Lower Mainland, these issues are even more in the spotlight.

      Our conditions are far from perfect here. We try our hardest to give them freedom, forage, and whatever else chickens need to feel complete. I wish we could give them more space but that will come as we expand our infrastructure; currently to keep them safe we pasture them in electro-net compounds. They act contented but I know they’d love to get out and explore more, forage more, and move around more.

      It astounds me whenever I stop to think about how even free range chickens live in big closed barns. But that’s another issue – for now, this is amazing news and I’m so glad this one step has been taken in the right direction. And I’m proud of our engaged province for speaking up.

      Reply
      • June 16, 2017 at 2:00 pm
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        Yes, exactly – one step at a time! As long as we’re moving to better conditions, I’ll take it, no matter how small!

        For now, if all you can do is bear witness – then that is important too! Video, photograph, document and SHARE. Maybe there are LOTS of other farmers or beginner farmers who would like to do better, but don’t know how, or feel alone, lacking in resources, etc. so knowing they are not alone could build community and give support for the PROCESS. Maybe your chicken journey should be your next blog post! Show us how you started, where you’re at now, where you’d like to be and why. It’s all good! So many of the readers of this blog want to own their own land and become more self-sustaining. How wonderful if you could shorten the learning curve for all of us 🙂

        Reply
      • June 16, 2017 at 2:09 pm
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        And yes, the standards for Organic, free-range, cage-free, free-run etc. vary greatly from country to country – so each of us must do our research to find out what it means THIS YEAR (!) in the country we live in.

        In Canada (May 2017):

        Cage-free (often known as free-run) – birds are loose in an open barn, but not allowed outside.
        Free range means the birds get to go outside when the weather co-operates.

        But are stocking densities defined; the amount of acreage per X number of birds? If 100 birds have access to a 1/3 acre muddy lot, is that going to produce healthy eggs/chickens with a decent quality of life?

        Again, this could be a topic for another blog post!

        Reply

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