In 2000, Americans consumed on average more than 66.5 lbs of poultry. This number had tripled since 1950, when the average rate of consumption in America was 20.5 lbs. Poultry farming has many different aspects. Many producers play one part in an assembly-line style of production that is used for poultry farming. Few poultry farmers are involved in the entire process from hatching to butchering and dressing.
A large house that is similar to the traditional chicken coup is used for raising chickens. Boxes are provided for hens to lay their eggs in. Poultry farmers must keep housing temperatures at optimum levels, whether you have chicks or adult birds. Eggs and chicks need heat lamps during most seasons of the year, until they have their feathers. Adult chickens must have proper ventilation and air control, and hens need heat in the winter to continue laying prime levels of eggs. Provide the chickens with adequate space to prevent disease.
You must always provide plenty of food and water for chickens, regardless of the season. Even if you have free-range chickens, you must provide feed for them to have. Most chicken feeds contain ground oyster shells, which help eggs to have harder shells and aids in grinding coarse feed in the gizzard. Also included in chicken feed is usually a mix of corn, soybean meal, vitamins, and minerals. Different rations are used depending on the stage of the bird. The National Research Council's Nutrient Requirements for Poultry specifies the amounts of protein, energy (carbohydrates and fats), minerals, and vitamins that chickens need. You can also use a certified organic diet for chickens. Vaccinations should be administered to chickens, especially if chicks are purchased and added to the existing flock. The housing restraints on commercially produced chicken usually show an increase in communicable diseases. Vaccinations can be purchased in 500 to 10,000 doses.
In a commercial setting, chickens that are ready to be butchered are boxed and shipped to a nearby facility that specializes in butchering. The chickens are passed on a conveyor belt through electrified salt water that temporarily paralyzes them. The chickens are then hung upside down and a machine severs their two carotid arteries. The chickens remain upside down until all the blood is drained. They are scalded two times and a machine rubs their feathers off. A specialized machine washes the chicken and then they are moved to an area where the feet and heads are cut off. They are then passed to another location where their intestines and internal organs are removed. The chickens are then immersed in chilled, chlorinated water for 40-50 minutes, until an internal temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. At this point, what happens to the chicken depends on your contractor. They could be cut into parts, sold whole, or cooked in pieces. An inspector from the USDA is required to be in the plant whenever chickens are being slaughtered to examine birds both before and after slaughter.