Where are all the chickens?

When you drive through the New Zealand countryside, you may see lots of cows and sheep in large paddocks. But every year, around 125 million chickens are raised and killed for meat in New Zealand. So, where are all these chickens? The majority of chickens bred for meat in New Zealand are kept inside, out of sight, in sheds on factory farms.

Life on a farm for a chicken bred for meat

Chickens bred for meat are kept in large windowless sheds with little space to move. Each shed can house as many as 40,000 chickens. The chickens have been selectively bred to grow as fast as possible. In just six weeks they grow to around twice the size of the average egg-laying chicken. They are then killed, while still only infants.

This extreme growth rate causes painful bone, heart, lung and leg problems. Many will die before they reach six weeks of age due to their many health problems. Their hearts and lungs do not grow as quickly as the rest of their bodies and cannot cope with the demands of their large, adult-sized body. Their hearts often fail, and the chicks may have trouble breathing. Their bones are not strong enough to support their heavy body, and over 30 percent of chickens bred for meat cannot walk properly.

Free range

Because there are no standards when it comes to outdoor areas, free-range chickens bred for meat are usually also kept in big windowless sheds. The only difference is a small door leading to the outdoors. Because of the size and design of the sheds and the huge number of chickens kept in each shed, many chickens will never go outside. Free-range chickens are also the same breed as non-free range chickens. As a result, they will also grow much too fast and will have the same serious health problems.

Did you know?

This fast-growing breed of chicken is labelled a ‘non-survivor’ which means that, even if they are rescued and allowed to live naturally, they will not survive past one year of age.

Did you know?

Worldwide it is estimated that over 50 billion chickens are killed for food each year. These huge numbers make the chicken one of the most exploited animals in the world.

Quick facts

  • Each year, around 125 million chickens are farmed and killed for meat in New Zealand
  • One shed can hold up to 40,000 birds
  • Each chicken has a floor space of less than the size of an iPad
  • Chickens are killed at six weeks of age
  • Around 7,000 chickens die from health issues related to their selective breeding every day
  • Free-range chicken makes up just 2% of the market
  • Free-range chickens are the same fast-growing breed
  • Four out of every five land animals killed for meat in New Zealand are chickens

“Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends.”

George Bernard Shaw – playwright and activist

How you can help chickens raised for meat

The best way you can help chickens on factory farms is by keeping them off your plate! We have heaps of chicken-free recipe ideas to get you inspired.

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Letter writing can be an extremely powerful way to inspire change. Whether it’s a letter to the editor or a letter to the Prime Minister, you can make your voice heard.

write a letter


Education is a big part of ending factory farming. Share what you have learnt by doing a school project on chickens bred for meat.

do a school project