Do chickens really like being free-range? It seems like a dumb question. Who wouldn’t like a big green paddock full of grass to peck and dust to bathe in?
“Chickens are related to forest-dwelling birds. They don’t like open spaces,” says Dr Charles Milne, who on [May 17] retired as [Victoria, Australia’s] chief vet. “Free-range can deliver huge welfare problems. Instinctively as people, we anthropomorphize animals and think they must prefer free-range because we would.”
There is plenty of evidence, he says, that indicates chickens do not like being in an open paddock at all. In fact, they may be most comfortable inside.
…[Australia’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals] endorses both cage-free barn systems and free-range (it, of course, says battery cages are “horrible”). “We don’t say free-range is better,” says Dr Kate Hartcher, the society’s scientific officer for farm animals. “They can be perfectly healthy and have good welfare in an indoor system.”
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