Welfare of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens: guidance

Detailed information about the needs of meat chickens and meat breeding chickens and how to meet these needs in accordance with good practice.


This guidance applies in relation to Scotland only. It is issued by the Scottish Ministers under section 38 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 with a view to securing the welfare of chickens reared for meat including meat breeding chickens and grandparent stock under all types of husbandry systems in Scotland (“meat chickens”). This guidance is intended to help all those who care for meat chickens to provide for the welfare of such chickens.

Without good stockmanship, animal welfare can never be adequately protected.  Adherence to this guidance will help owners and other persons responsible for animals to provide for animal welfare.

Those who have care of meat chickens should demonstrate:

  • Caring and responsible planning and management;
  • Skilled, knowledgeable and conscientious stockmanship;
  • Knowledge of design of the birds’ housed environment.
  • Considerate handling and transport; and
  • Knowledge of humane slaughter.

The welfare of meat chickens is considered within a framework that was developed by the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC), and known as the ‘Five Freedoms’.  These form the guiding principles for the assessment of welfare within any system, together with the actions necessary to safeguard welfare within the constraints of an efficient livestock industry. The Five Freedoms should be considered in conjunction with FAWC’s three essentials of stockmanship.

The Five Freedoms are:

1. Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour;

2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area;

3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;

4. Freedom to express normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animals’ own kind;

5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment to avoid mental suffering.

The Three Essentials of Stockmanship are:

1. Knowledge of Animal Husbandry

Sound knowledge of the biology and husbandry of farm animals, including how their needs may be best provided for in all circumstances.

2. Skills in Animal Husbandry

Demonstrable skills in observation, handling, care and treatment of animals, and problem detection and resolution. 

3. Personal Qualities

Affinity and empathy with animals, dedication and patience.


Email: Kirsten.Foubister@gov.scot

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