Chickens grown for meat come from different breeds than egg-laying hens. Meat chickens are not kept in cages and both male and female chicks are raised to produce meat. Most meat chickens are housed in large sheds (barn raised), with some also having daytime access to the outdoors (free range) once they are fully feathered. Animal welfare issues in meat chicken farming include barren environments and health issues caused by rapid growth rates. Housing environments for meat chickens should include perching, litter for dustbathing and foraging, and enrichment. The RSPCA believes the industry must shift towards slower-growing meat chicken breeds to avoid the leg weakness and other disorders associated with fast growth rate.

For more information on layer hens visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.




Meat chickens (broilers) are genetically very different to layer hens and are generally raised in either barn or free-range systems. The management of broilers should adhere to the RSPCA Approved Farming Standards for meat chickens. The Standards refer to factors that can affect animal welfare such as stocking density (how many birds in a given area), light and dark periods, litter management, perches and environmental enrichment,. The RSPCA is currently working with other stakeholders to improve the welfare standards of broiler chickens under the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Poultry.

For more information on meat chickens visit the RSPCA Knowledgebase.

Click here for the RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for meat chickens.

Poultry handling

When handling poultry, it is important to consider their welfare and appropriate ways to catch, restrain and carry birds. Handling techniques such as grabbing birds by the legs and carrying them upside down are not considered best practice. There are much better ways to handle birds for example lift a chicken with both hands gently around their wings and body keeping the chicken upright. Tossing, throwing or purposely dropping birds to the ground is not acceptable. 

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Preparing poultry for transport

Before transporting birds you should consider the type of container, how secure it is and how easy it is to open and retrieve birds. Maintaining good hygiene is also an important part of ensuring the wellbeing of animals so containers should be able to be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after each use. All animals should be checked prior to loading to ensure they are fit to load ie. no significant illness or injuries which will compromise their welfare. If birds are not fit to load they should be treated or euthanised as appropriate. These requirements and considerations apply to large commercial producers as well as individuals purchasing and transporting birds from markets or private sales.

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Poultry transport

Chickens, layer hens, turkeys, ducks and other birds must be transported appropriately. Birds must not be carried or held in the boot of a car or under conditions when the temperature may exceed 30°C. This is because they are very sensitive to extreme temperatures. Very young birds are susceptible to the cold and should be kept warm. Stocking density (number of birds in a given area) must also be considered as overcrowding can be very stressful for birds and lead to further issues such as aggression and traumatic injuries. 

RSPCA Australia are currently involved in the development of the National Standards and Guidelines for Poultry and were involved in the development of the Standards and Guidelines in Livestock Transport which includes poultry. However, Western Australia remains the only state not to regulate the Transport Standards and the RSPCA recommends this be undertaken as soon as possible.

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