Want to Know All About Broiler Chicken? Find out here

The broiler chicken is the bird used for breeding only and exclusively to obtain meat, there are others for the acquisition of eggs. In the following article we will know more about these chickens, which are the best breeds, how we can take care of them and much more.

What is Broiler Chicken?

A broiler chicken, also known scientifically as Gallus gallus domesticus, is any chicken raised specifically for the production of chicken meat which is in great demand worldwide. Many typical broilers have white feathers and yellowish skin color. Most commercial broilers reach slaughter weight between 4 and 7 weeks of age, although slower growing breeds reach slaughter weight at approximately 14 weeks of age. (see article: Cornish chicken ).

Due to the reason that broilers are so young at slaughter and are about 500 g, their behavior and physiology are those of an immature bird. Because of the extensive selection for rapid early growth and the husbandry used to maintain this, broilers are susceptible to various welfare problems, particularly malformations and skeletal dysfunction, skin and eye lesions, and congestive heart conditions.

Ventilation management, housing, stocking density and internal procedures should be evaluated on a regular basis to support good flock welfare. Broiler breeder flocks grow to maturity and beyond, but also have welfare problems related to the frustration of high feed motivation and beak trimming.

How Long Do You Live?

In their natural environment, hens spend much of their time foraging for food. This means that they are highly motivated to perform certain species-specific behaviors that are very typical of chickens, i.e. they possess natural behaviors such as feeding, pecking behaviors, scratching and feather maintenance such as preening and dust bathing.

Trees are used for roosting at night to avoid predators. The life of chickens destined for meat production consists of 2 distinct phases. They are born in a hatchery and move to a growing farm when they are only 1 day old. They remain there until they are heavy enough to be slaughtered.

Unlike laying hens which are kept for egg production and live for about 1 year, broiler chickens only live for several weeks before they are slaughtered. In the EU, slaughtering is done at the age of 21 to 170 days which is usually around 5 to 7 weeks.

  • In the United States the average age of broilers for slaughter is 47 days with a weight of 2.6 kg.
  • In the EU, the approximate age for slaughtering broilers is 42 days with a weight of 2.5 kg.

Over the last 80 years or so, the slaughter age of a standard, fast-growing broiler has been decreasing greatly, and the market weight has been increasing. In comparison, traditional broilers take about 12 weeks to reach slaughter.

Their Anatomy

Broilers of modern commercial uses, e.g., Cornish crosses and Cornish-Rocks, are the most artificially selected and bred for efficient meat production on a large scale.They are noted for having very fast growth rates, a high feed conversion rate and also low activity levels. Modern commercial broilers are bred to reach an approximate slaughter weight of about 2 kg in as little as 35 to 49 days.

As a consequence, the behavior and physiology of broilers that are raised for meat are those of immature birds, rather than adults. Slow-growing organic strains and free-range growth that reach slaughter weight between 12 and 16 weeks of age have been developed.

Typical broilers have white feathers and yellowish skin. Recent genetic analysis has shown that the yellow skin gene was incorporated into domestic fowl through hybridization with the gray junglefowl (G. sonneratii). Modern crosses are also favorable for meat production because they lack the typical “hair” that many of the breeds have that needs singeing after plucking. Broilers, both males and females, are bred for meat. Find out how to incubate chicken eggs here .

Behavior

Broiler behavior is modified by the environment and alters as broiler age and body weight increase rapidly over days. For example, the activity of broilers that are raised outdoors is initially much higher than that of broilers that are raised indoors, but by 6 weeks of age, it decreases to comparable levels in all groups.

The same study conducted shows that in the outdoor broiler group, surprisingly little use is made of the extra space in the facilities such as perches; it was proposed that the main reason for this was due to leg weakness as 80% of the birds possessed an abnormal gait at 7 weeks of age.

There is no evidence of reduced motivation to extend the behavioral repertoire, as, for example, pecking on the ground was maintained at significantly higher levels in the outdoor groups because this type of behavior can also be performed from a recumbent rather than standing posture.

All About Breeding

Before the development of modern chicken breeds for commercial meat, broilers were mostly young male chickens which were slaughtered in farm flocks. Pedigree breeding began around 1916. Magazines for the poultry industry existed from that time. A large hybrid variety of chicken was produced from a cross of a male of a natural double-butted Cornish variety and a female of a tall, big-boned Plymouth Rocks variety.

This first attempt at a hybrid beef breed was introduced in the 1930s and became dominant in the 1960s. The original hybrid was plagued with problems of low fertility, very slow growth and certain susceptibilities to disease.

Modern broilers have become very different from the Cornish hybrid. Learn more about Chicken Reproduction and much more .

As a second example, colored broilers were proposed by the well-known Shaver in 1973. The genetics were based on the company’s breeding plan for layers that had been developed in the mid-1960s. A difficulty faced by most breeders of sexed broilers is that the chicken must have white feathers by the age of slaughter. After 12 years, accurate color sexing was achieved without compromising economic traits.

Feeding

Chickens are omnivorous birds and modern broilers have access to a special high-protein diet, which is usually administered by means of an automatic feeding system. This is combined with artificial lighting conditions for feeding and growth stimulation and thus the desired body weight.

I recommend you to see: Drinkers for Chickens , Roosters and Chickens

In the United States in 2011, the average feed conversion ratio of a broiler was 0.86 kg of feed per kilogram of live weight. In 1925 the figure was 2.13188 kg. Canada has a typical FCR of 0.7801789 kg.

New Zealand commercial broiler farms have recorded the best broiler FCR in the world, consistently at about 1.38 or less. (tixagag_16) Find out what Chickens should eat to be healthy and more .

If you want to know what are the best foods that currently exist for broiler chickens, I recommend you to see this article on the best Feed for Chickens

Broiler Broiler Management

Artificial selection has led to a great increase in the speed at which broilers have developed and reached slaughter weight. The time required to reach about 1.5 kg live weight decreased from 120 days to 30 days between 1925 and 2005. Selection for rapid early growth rate and feeding and management procedures to support such growth have come to lead to various welfare problems in modern broiler strains.

The welfare of Broiler Chickens is particularly of great concern given the large number of individuals produced; for example, the U.S. In 2011 produced an estimated 9 billion Broiler Chickens.

Broiler Breeds

Broilers are chickens that are raised primarily for meat, which are commonly known as broilers. Broilers are excellent meat chickens because they have the ability to grow faster than chickens raised for egg-laying and chickens that are considered dual-purpose.

In a period of only 5 short weeks, chickens commonly known as broilers can weigh around 1.8 to 2.26 kg and by the time they are 10 weeks old, they can easily reach 4.53 kg, which is the ideal size for an average family size.

This makes backyard broilers the best option for those looking to develop a self-sufficient lifestyle. Among the breeds of chickens that are prominent we can mention the following 5 classes which are:

The Cornish Cross

The Cornish Cross and its associated hybrids are extremely favored when you tend to try to raise your own chickens for meat purposes. These birds are capable of reaching a weight of 5.44 kg in as little as 6 to 8 weeks.Due to their excellent growth rate, they are one of the most preferred choices among commercial meat producers and backyard breeders.

The Cornish cross also grows faster and tastes better than dual-purpose chicken breeds. It is also much preferred to breeds that are used only for meat purposes. Because of its super fast growth rate, the activity level of the Cornish cross is very low.

These chickens possess wide breasts, large thighs and legs, with a skin that is yellow enriched making them perfect for the dinner table.

The Giant Jersey

Jersey Giants originated in the U.S. as they were developed with the basic thought of replacing the classic turkey. While this did not come to pass, they have earned their own place in the poultry world. Jersey Giants are a pure breed and weigh around 4.9 to 5.8 kg on average.

However, these giants grow at a slower rate than other similar broiler breeds. They also need large amounts of time and feed, which can really add up if you don’t grow your own feed. This makes them pretty unacceptable in the commercial meat world, but a very hot commodity in backyard chicken bashing.

These chickens are calm in demeanor and very docile in nature, while the male giants are considered slightly aggressive. Jersey Giants also get to lay extra large brown eggs. Which means they can be used as an egg hen while waiting for the egg to reach its peak fattening point. This breed of chicken comes in colors such as black, white and blue.

The Bresse

These chickens are white birds that are quite large in size. They have feet that are bright blue and are very expensive and also popular. The price of these birds should not fool you into keeping your distance. Once you have breeding pairs, the only expense you will have is the food needed to raise the chicks. The Bresse is very famous for being the best meat tasting chicken in the world and also for its great tenderness. These chickens can be white, black, gray and also blue in color.

Orpington

Orpingtons are another heavy chicken breed that tend to grow to an average weight of 3.17 to 3.6 kg in the case of the female. They are good layers, but are mainly used as Broilers because of their amazing flavor and tenderness of their meat. These birds have a short back with a sort of curved shape, a U-shaped underline and a body that is wide.

While they are not overly large birds and grow at a slightly slower rate, Orpingtons are excellent layers. They can lay up to 200 eggs per year.

Freedom Rangers

Freedom Rangers were birds developed with the objective of being good meat chickens which are grass-fed. They were specifically bred for the pesticide-free meat market. These chickens thrive on low protein feeds and are better at foraging than Cornish Crosses. This makes them the perfect chickens to walk in a large pen. It also makes them versatile eaters.

They can survive field insects and corn feeding and be perfectly healthy birds to eat. These chicks are mainly found in red colors with several black feathers barred or spotted as well, but can also be found in shades of bronze and even gray.

How much does it weigh at 45 days

Birds are raised on a starter diet for approximately 2 to 3 weeks.They are then given a sort of grow-out diet and, on certain occasions, a finisher diet for the last 7 to 10 days. As mentioned, as these birds age, their nutrient requirements decrease.

This means that older chicks may be able to handle poorer quality feed better than younger birds. Mortality is typically 3 to 5 % and most of it occurs during week 1. Poultry production targets in the vast majority of developing countries will be lower than in temperate climates. Typical growth figures and feed conversion ratio called FCR, kg feed per kg gain, in good commercial production are:

Days Weight Feed Conversion Ratio (FCR)

from 0 to 21 900 grams 1.42

from 21 to 43 2.3 kilo grams 1.85

The implications are that a very high quality feed is needed if a maximum growth rate is to be achieved and this may not be possible or desirable in some of the countries due to high temperature or expensive feed ingredients.

You will see that there is a very high feed intake during the last 2 to 3 weeks of production and then it slows down. The message is that keeping birds beyond the normal slaughter age of 7 to 8 weeks is very costly and often the difference between a profit and a loss. Find out how to raise laying hens at home.

Possible Diseases

There are generally 3 diseases to which broiler chickens are exposed, which are:

Cardiovascular Dysfunction

Selection and breeding for very rapid excellent growth means that there is a genetically induced mismatch between the broiler’s energy supplying organs and its energy consuming organs. The rapid growth of these can lead to certain metabolic disorders such as sudden death syndrome (SDS) and ascites.

SDS is an acute heart failure disease that mainly affects fast-growing male broilers that appear to be in good condition. Affected birds suddenly start flapping their wings, lose their balance, sometimes cry and then fall on their backs or sides until they die, usually all within a minute.

In 1993, British broiler producers reported an incidence of 0.8%. In the year 2000, SDS has a mortality rate of 0.1 % to 3 % in the regions of Europe.

Skeletal Dysfunction

Improved breast muscle enlargement means that broilers’ center of gravity has shifted forward and their breasts are wider than normal for other species and compared to their ancestors, which affects the way they walk and thus puts additional stress on their hips and legs.

There is a high frequency of skeletal problems in broilers, mainly in the locomotor system, which tends to include varus and valgus deformities, osteodystrophy, dyschondroplasia and necrosis of the femoral head.

These leg abnormalities impair the birds’ locomotor abilities, and lame birds spend more time lying down and also sleeping. The behavioral activities of broilers have decreased rapidly from 14 days of age onwards.

Integrity lesions

Sitting and lying behaviors in the fast growing strains have increased with age from 75 % in the first 7 days to 90 % at 35 days of age. This increase in inactivity is related to a kind of increased dermatitis caused by an increased amount of time in contact with ammonia in the litter. Such contact dermatitis is characterized by hyperkeratosis and necrosis of the epidermis at the affected sites; it can take such forms as burns on the hock, blisters on the sinuses and lesions on the feet.

Vaccines given

The modern broiler reaches slaughter weight within several weeks. This leaves little time for the development of a mature immune system. Therefore, it is very necessary that broilers including organic broilers are vaccinated against various diseases of which some are infectious pathogens such as Salmonella which can also be transmitted through the egg. This is a vertical transmission from the breeder hen to the egg.The breeding hen should also be vaccinated.

Broilers should be vaccinated according to the place where they are raised, so it is always advisable to study which are the diseases found in the areas that can affect the flocks. Among the main vaccines are:

  • Vaccine against bronchitis
  • Vaccination against avian encephalomyelitis
  • Vaccination against Infectious Bursal Disease

Broiler Vitamins

One of the most common problems related to backyard flocks is poor or inadequate feeding programs that can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies for the birds. Vitamins and minerals are very important components of the chickens’ diet and unless a formulated ration is fed, deficiencies are very likely to occur.

Poultry and Broilers require all known vitamins with the exception of C. Some of the vitamins are fat soluble, while others are water soluble. Some of the vitamins needed by chickens are those that are distributed in the 2 groups mentioned above:

Fat Soluble Vitamins

Water-soluble Vitamins

  • Vitamin B12
  • Folic acid

Minerals are also very important for the health and well-being of broilers. The following are some of the minerals necessary for their development:

As indicated above, deficiencies of these vitamins and minerals can lead to numerous health problems for broilers, including death in some cases. Know also which are the Natural Vitamins for Gamecocks .

Organic Broiler Chicken

Organic Broiler Chickens are free range, must also use slower growing chicken breeds and typically have a reduction in stocking density EU organic standards stipulate:

  • That chickens must be reared until they reach the minimum slaughter age of 81 days or else they will come from slow-growing chicken breeds also those reared until 81 days of age.

The maximum stocking density is 21 kg per square meter inside the poultry house and at least 4 per square meter per bird outside. Higher stocking densities (16 birds per square meter or up to 30 kg per square meter inside, plus 2.5 per square meter per bird outside) are allowed if chickens are kept in small mobile houses that allow easy access to the outdoors.

How to Slaughter One of Them

The most common methods of stunning poultry are electric and gas methods. Impressive stunning is practiced to render birds unconscious and insensible and immobilize them before slaughter. Among the other methods we also find the following:

  • Electrical stunning
  • Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK)

Cage Being Used

Cage housing of broiler breeders is a rare occurrence, approximately 1o 2% of the broiler population in Europe is kept in cages. Some of the farms, mainly in the Netherlands and Germany, use multi-tier cage systems with groups of 60 to 100 birds per cage and natural mating.

A small number of farms, mainly in southern Europe, have breeding hens housed in non-enriched plants of conventional cages, individual or group cages, with artificial insemination.