There are a lot of things in animal husbandry that look abusive and cruel to an outsider, especially someone that just sees a snippet of information, not the whole picture, a snippet that was carefully filmed and selected to show things in the absolute worst light possible. But most are not. The animals are better off for it. For example, how cruel and inhumane is it spay and neuter cats and dogs? Totally barbaric, isn’t it.
I know people that make their living off of chickens, not just raising them but also other aspects, like the guy that did the chicken necropsies when people send their dead chickens in to find out what killed them. These people are not barbaric inhumane brutes that take great pleasure in abusing chickens. They are good people, some really good people. You can always find a cop that is rotten, an unethical lawyer, a minister that abused his/her position, a teacher that sexually abuses children, and people that do not take care of their animals properly if you look hard enough. Just because you find a few like that does not mean that every single one of them are like that. A lot of the contamination cases of processed chicken come from the same operations that have been there before, repeat offenders. You can find rotten apples in any group.
Often stories are distorted for sensationalism. One case I’m familiar with, a first grader was taken from school, handcuffed, and put in the back of a police cruiser. Totally horrible, right? Due to privacy laws there were a few questions that could not be answered about that case. Why did his grandparents who were on his call card not come pick him up when they were called? This time or previous times. Another interesting question, what did that boy do to the back seat of a cop car the last time he was in the back seat not handcuffed? Be cautious of what you see and hear on the mainstream media let alone people with agendas putting a video on the internet. It’s not always the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, especially industry-wide.
As I said above, I don’t treat mine the same as the commercial operations in some ways, space and access to the outside for example. Also as I said, the commercial chickens are fine-tuned animals, created by selective breeding to convert feed into either meat or eggs exceptionally efficiently. It is a fine balance. If you underfeed them they will not perform profitably. You are in the business to make a profit so you are not going to underfeed them. That would be ridiculous. If you overfeed them you are spending money unnecessarily plus you are potentially abusing them. If they are overfed broilers can grow so fast their hearts stop or their skeleton breaks down before they reach butcher size. If they are overfed hens lay larger eggs than the more profitable grade A large. This leads to more prolapse, internal laying, hens becoming egg bound, more double yolked eggs, and more multiple defective eggs laid in a day. These bad things don’t happen to each and every chicken but the mortality rates do go up in the overall flock. That hurts profit. Why would you spend more money to hurt your profit?
Our chickens are tougher than the commercial chickens. They have not been developed through selective breeding to require such carful treatment. Their bodies are not nearly as efficient in converting feed into meat or eggs as their commercial cousins. Ours can do quite well on the same rations as their cousins as long as we don’t mess up the balance of nutrients a lot by feeding them excess low-protein treats, their bodies just won’t be as large as possible and the eggs won’t be as large as they could be. That suits my goals quite well. To see mine chasing bugs, interacting in the flock, and seeing the number of eggs they lay and chicks they hatch and raise I consider them very healthy. But as long as you don’t get ridiculous about it our chickens can also handle a higher protein diet and be quite healthy.