five brown hens on ground beside fence


From the backyard to our beds:

the spectrum of care, attitudes, relationship types, and welfare in non-commercial chicken care


Non-commercial chickens may be the third most numerous pets in Western countries. Yet, to date, there is limited research into their welfare or the care-taking practices and attitudes of their guardians. Using a quantitative questionnaire, this study investigated non-commercial chicken owners’ care-taking practices, attitudes, and relationship types with their chickens. Additionally, the study investigated barriers to optimizing non-commercial chicken welfare. Specific questions were asked regarding niche care-taking practices, including the use of Suprelorin® implants. With 2000+ responses, this study found variable care-taking practices, yet largely positive attitudes towards chickens, and a “personal” (though not “close personal”) owner–chicken relationship, as defined by the Owner–Bird Relationship Scale. The Chicken Attitude Scale, Owner–Bird Relationship Scale, and Care Series scores were found to be correlated with each other, with coefficients ranging from 0.176 to 0.543 (p < 0.001). “Preventing commercial chickens from going to slaughter” was a key motive for chicken care by 56.1% of respondents, with 69.6% of respondents stating they cared for ex-commercial chickens. This study found a higher prevalence of reported poor health conditions and number of deaths relative to prior studies, and egg yolk peritonitis emerged as a leading health condition and cause of death. Moreover, 68.0% had not heard of Suprelorin® implants, and only 6.3% used implants. Most (76.4%) chicken carers followed an omnivorous diet that includes chicken meat/eggs. The results reinforced previous findings concerning a need for more avian-specialist, locally available, and affordable veterinary care for chickens. Research into Suprelorin® implants, rooster-specific care, and tailored requirements of caring for ex-commercial chickens is recommended.

The impacts of colony cages

on the welfare of chickens farmed for meat


There is growing interest in keeping meat chickens in modern colony cages (CCs) rather than conventional litter-floor barns. Suggested welfare improvements for chickens in such systems include reduced bodily lesions due to lower contact with flooring contaminated with faeces and urine, due to slatted flooring and automated faeces removal. This systematic review sought to determine the animal welfare impacts of CCs using slatted flooring, in comparison to litter-based non-cage systems. Overall, 23 relevant studies were retrieved. From one perspective, the extant research appeared mixed. Fifteen (65%) of these 23 studies identified some form of welfare concern about slatted floors, and thus CCs. Yet, when considering actual welfare indicators assessed, the tallies generated in favour of each housing system were similar. Crucially however, there were incomplete behavioural welfare measures in 100% of the empirical studies reviewed. Accordingly, significant welfare concerns exist about CCs, centring around behavioural deprivation. Given that over 70 billion chickens are farmed then slaughtered each year globally, widespread implementation of CCs would create a major animal welfare concern. Instead of implementing such CC systems, research and development is recommended into improving welfare outcomes of conventional litter barns using different forms of commercially feasible enrichment. As a minimum, a full behavioural analysis, as detailed in the Welfare Quality Assessment protocols, should form a mandatory part of any future studies aimed at assessing the welfare impacts of housing systems on farmed chickens.

Mace JL and Knight A (2022). The impacts of colony cages on the welfare of chickens farmed for meatAnimals, 12(21):2988.


Mace JL and Knight A (2022). Effects of colony cages on chickens. Scholarly Community Encyclopedia.