When I first saw that question my mind immediately jumped tp the Pin Energizer Bunny – that goes on, and on, and on,….But in The World of Chicken Farming. This is closer to what we are needing to know.
Farm chicken battery or battery cage or poultry battery cage are the different names used to refer to a housing system used in the rearing of chicken. It involves the arrangement of identical cages in rows and columns, connected to form a unit. The floor of these cages is usually made of strong galvanized wire which slopes from back to front allowing eggs to roll forward.
This type of housing system is usually used for layer chickens as it makes for easier retrieval of eggs and better monitoring of the laying process. This system has essential heating elements for brooding chicken and utilizes a conveyor belt under the cage for the removal of manure or just lets it drop through the meshed wire, either way removing it from the chickens’ immediate environment. This is a very important consideration in farming, the fact that the Chickens are not living in conditions that bring them into contact with the manure being produced. Whether it be farm animals, chickens, pigs, cows, or even people, the farther away from Poop the healthier we are. Most water system regulations have distances that are required to keep water sources, wells from septic fields for this Basic Reason.
Despite it being an efficient system for egg production, the battery cage is a very controversial system that is illegal in some countries, mostly in Europe. Its prevention of many natural behaviors, its barrenness, and its perceived inhuman treatment of the birds are the biggest reasons for the controversy. This led to the inception of improved cages known as enriched battery cages.
Advantages of farm chicken battery
The use of battery cages offer some advantages over other forms of chicken rearing and egg production in the following areas
One look at farm chicken battery and you can tell how organized and easier to operate it is than other forms of large bird housing systems like the deep litter system. The cage system makes the entire process of egg production more transparent and easier to manage.
With this system, it’s easy to monitor and select hens based on performance. Egg production by each hen can be tracked and the necessary steps taken if there’s a reduction in the performance of a particular hen. Battery cages make culling a more straightforward and efficient process.
It’s more cost-efficient in the long run
Farm chicken battery saves cost in two vital areas
- It reduces the cost of feeding: battery cages are equipped with food and water holding accessories that are adequate to hold a day’s supply of food and water. This way, food doesn’t get covered in litter, doesn’t get spilled and yet the chicken is well-fed as required daily.
- Lower labor required: due to the highly organized setup of battery cages, it requires a reduced amount of human input to maximize the entire production. Battery cages provide adequate accessories for most aspects of chicken rearing like feeding, removal of excreta and separation of eggs. So all the farmer has to do is show up, pour fresh food and water, pack the eggs and clean up the droppings from time to time – these don’t require many employees.
Increase in overall productivity
Farm chicken battery is a system set up for commercial production and in that regard, it proves to be the most efficient method for achieving increased productivity. Egg production in the 21st century has increased to over 250 eggs per hen annually from about 100 eggs per hen in the 20th century. This increase is as a result of the widespread use of battery cages combined with the increasing demand for eggs in the global market.
Enriched battery cages are operated in such a way that the birds are constantly in peak egg-producing health. Consequently, most of the eggs produced for human consumption are products of farm chicken batteries.
Higher accommodation quality and capacity
Battery cages provide a higher quality accommodation per hen and can house more hens in a given space than other systems of housing. This method of accommodation separates the hens into quarters and also removes the eggs from reach, thereby reducing aggression and cannibalism in the laying population. Also, arranging birds in rows and columns of easily accessible cages makes for more efficient use of space, making the task of navigating the farm much easier.
Disadvantages of farm chicken battery
Now let us examine some of the disadvantages of this system
- High initial startup cost: it costs much more to set up a large farm chicken battery than to build a deep litter system. This might be a restricting factor for startup farmers.
- Prevention of natural behavior: conventional battery cages lack enough room for the hen to move, play with dirt or dig which are natural biological tendencies.
- Health risks: studies suggest that birds bred in battery cages are prone to osteoporosis. This could be due to the high demand of calcium for egg production and also the lack of exercise.
The biggest demerits of this housing system are associated with the way and manner with which the birds are handled. Many animal protection organizations and activists have made so much effort to publicize certain farm industry practices that haven’t sat well with the public. These practices include
- Debeaking: this is a common industry practice where the beaks of young female chickens are shortened with a hot blade. The reason for this is to prevent the hens from feather-pecking, cannibalism and vent pecking. Animal activists suggest this is a very painful process for the chicks as their beaks are packed with nerves.
- Forced molting: this refers to the act of starving hens for up to two weeks if their rate of egg production reduces, in an attempt to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle.
- Culling: this is the process of sending an inferior or surplus farm animal to slaughter. In this case, the farm animals are male chicks that are separated and killed just after they are hatched. Hens that are “spent” – past their laying cycle – are also sent to be slaughtered. The process of getting rid of this surplus can be by asphyxiation, cervical dislocation, carbon dioxide or maceration.
Despite the efforts of these animal protection agencies, farm battery cage is still the predominant system for housing poultry. This is because of the advantages it has over the deep litter system and how increasingly difficult it has become to get the land and space for free-range chicken farming. However, modern cages are “enriched” to include more room for limited movement and accessories like perches.