- Alberta Egg Industry
- Animal Care
- Egg Factoids
- Egg Products
- Food Safety & Quality
- Supply Management
Can you be more specific about how these animals are killed when they are discovered to be of no use to the industry, or when they become too sick to continue laying eggs? What exact method is used to kill the chickens?
When a farmer finds an individual hen that is sick or injured, to the point that is must be euthanized, the most common method is cervical dislocation. When it comes to end of lay, Egg Farmers of Alberta has been leading the way in terms of pioneering the development of two new technologies for more humane euthanasia. The first is a Modified Atmospheric Chamber, which uses CO2 gas, and the second is Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning. EFA works closely with Alberta egg farmers to ensure that they are always meeting or exceeding American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) standards.
What methods of euthanization are used on male chicks in Alberta, and how can I find out which method is used by a specific egg farmer when I am choosing which eggs to buy?
Male chicks are humanely euthanized at the hatchery, before the day-old chicks are sent to a pullet grower. Those hens are sent to egg farmers when they reach 19 weeks of age and start laying eggs. All registered Alberta egg farmers use an approved and humane method of euthanasia, whether at end of lay, or when a bird is sick or injured. The more than 17o egg farmers in the province sell their eggs to a grading station, who inspect and package the eggs before selling them to retailers and restaurants, so the eggs cannot be traced back to a specific farm.
Why are only brown chickens used in free-run and free-range housing, and only white birds used in traditional housing?
Egg farmers use a variety of white and brown breeds in all types of housing. Common brown chicken breeds tend to be more calm, which is a benefit for managing birds in a loose housing system.
Could you tell me how hens and roosters are euthanized?
Whenever a chicken is euthanized, whether it’s a sick/injured hen on a layer farm or a male chick at the hatchery, they are humanely euthanized by trained personnel. There are also a number of international research initiatives underway with the goal of developing an alternative to, and eliminating the need to, euthanize male chicks.
Do eggs from brown hens typically have a more frequent occurrence of blood spots than those from white hens?
The incidence of blood spots does vary between strains of birds, but typically about 2-4% of eggs laid will contain some blood. An increased frequency of blood spots could be caused by various problems with the feed, lighting issues, or unexpected disturbances in the barn. A farmer often consults with their poultry veterinarian and/or feed nutritionist, in order to help identify and resolve the cause.
How are egg laying chickens treated? Are they kept in cages? How can I make sure that my eggs are raised free-range or organic?
Alberta egg farmers are committed to providing the highest quality care possible to their birds, regardless of the type of hen housing system they utilize, and they must all follow the mandatory national Animal Care Program. When shopping for eggs, both free-range and organic eggs come from hens raised in free-range housing.
I am just starting out with chickens and I got a coop that holds 5-7 chickens. What breed would be best for Alberta, and where would I get them from?
Alberta agriculture has a wide variety of resources available for small-scale, unregistered egg farmers, which can be found on their website. You can also call them at 310-FARM (3276). Just be sure to confirm that raising chickens is legal in your area.
What is your favourite part about working with chickens?
I love to see my hens cooing and clucking and following me around the barn!
What are the best type of egg laying chickens in Alberta?
Alberta egg farmers care for a variety of breeds. The choice is largely dependent on the type of hen housing system the farmer has, as well as their individual experience and comfort level raising a particular breed.
Could you please clarify under what conditions hens are kept? What regulations are in place for farmers to raise healthy hens for egg production?
The Canadian egg industry follows practices outlined in the national Animal Care Program, which is based on the Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pullets, Layers and Spent Fowl. The Animal Care Program is mandatory for Alberta egg farmers, as a requirement for being licensed to produce eggs. The Animal Care Program ensures that hens have a safe, healthy and comfortable living environment, providing guidelines for space, water, feed, lighting, air circulation, hen handling and more.
How much space is required for a hen in a free-run (aviary) housing system? How many hens do you have in a barn?
Hen housing density requirements are included in our mandatory provincial Animal Care Policy. In a free-run aviary housing system, birds must be provided a minimum of 144 (white birds) / 172.8 (brown birds) square inches per bird, when sufficient perch space is provided. The total number of birds is dependent on the size of the barn.
Do you debeak the chicks without anesthetic?
At the hatchery, day-old chicks receive infrared beak treatment, in accordance with the Canadian egg industry’s recommended Code of Practice and national Animal Care Program.