Preparing the chicks arrival at the farm.

Unlike the conditions you may have seen depicted in Food Inc., our chicken houses are state-of-the-art and very clean.  We build our houses with cement floors that have a raised lip on the sides.  It makes it easier to clean and guarantees rodents cannot tunnel under the floor and up into the house.  Rodents are the major cause of salmonella and campylobacter, and their presence is very stressful to chickens.   

After each flock of chickens, we remove all manure and litter then thoroughly clean and disinfect the house. The house remains empty for approximately two weeks to make sure any virus life cycle has been broken, to protect the next flock. Then a new bed of clean, wood shavings is laid down…unlike other poultry producers who just add new litter on top of old manure.

Before the chicks arrive at the farm, the temperature in the house is raised to 90-92°.  Chickens are very sensitive to temperature. If it’s too hot, they get stressed. If it’s too cold, they get stressed. Our houses have cutting-edge electronic systems that monitor all conditions in the house, to provide year-round climate control and to insure optimal temperature and air quality in the house.

Fresh litter and constant fresh air circulation keep dust and ammonia in the house to a minimum. If you saw Food Inc., you’ll remember the people in the houses were having difficulty breathing, so much ammonia had built up in the house. We never have that problem, because we don’t leave that old manure in the house. Also our chickens don’t suffer from hock burns.  These marks are where the ammonia from the waste of other birds has burned through the skin on the bird’s leg. It’s painful and totally unnecessary.

We have a new video coming out at the end of the year. It will be available for you to see on our new website. When you watch it, you’ll see for yourself the steps we take to make sure our chicks are healthy and happy.

In my next entry, I want  to talk about the chickens’ life at the farm.

A Lifecycle of Humane Animal Compassion

In my last blog, I talked about the October 21, 2010 New York Times article, New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side, by William Neuman. I talked about how our new slow induction anesthesia (SIA) will be a more humane, low-stress system that gently puts the birds to sleep before they are processed.

But the story doesn’t end there.  

SIA is the final step in years of work to create a lifecycle of humane animal compassion for our birds.  

Over the years, we’ve developed The Bell & Evans Humane Animal Welfare Standard, our guidelines that govern all aspects of our chickens’ lives and insure they receive the highest standards of humane animal treatment… for their entire life, not just during processing…from the breeder and the farm, to transport and the processing plant. Over the next few weeks I will discuss how our birds are cared for in each phase of their life. Today I want to start at the beginning and talk about our breeder farms.

We carefully select our breeder chickens and raises them from chicks, so they’re sure they grow up strong and healthy. Fresh air, fresh water and our specially-formulated, all-vegetarian diet help assure the flock will remain healthy.  Our breeders have spacious, well-ventilated houses that protect the chickens from the elements and predators, but still give them plenty of room to roam.  We carefully control their environment. Too hot or too cold and chickens get stressed. Fans, heaters and side walls that open, allow fresh air to circulate in warm weather and keep the house at a comfortable temperature year round.  We give the chickens special areas for socializing and the individual nests, with walls on three sides, give the hen a sense of security, while she’s laying her egg.  We don’t artificially inseminate our chickens, they mate naturally. If you saw Food Inc., you saw how stressful it was for those birds. As with all Bell & Evans facilities, our farm families dedicate their lives to the health and welfare of our chickens. They enforce strict B&E Standards in care, feeding and bio-security to protect our flocks.

In my next blog, I’ll discuss how we care for our chicks on the farm.