Born To Die (The Life of A Broiler Chicken)

Chicken meat. One of the most accessible meats available. One of the cheapest meats available. The meat that women on a diet reach for. The meat you can have in your sandwich for lunch, for your roast dinner or in your salad as a snack. Having not eaten meat for nearly 20 years now, I have heard this many times – “What? You don’t eat meat? Not even chicken?!!”. No, not even chicken. You see chicken meat actually comes from a little animal who can feel pain, who can make decisions, who can make emotional connections and who is essentially not that different to us. Chickens are thinking, feeling sentient beings yet they are treated as nothing in our society by the majority of people.

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Chicken meat does not come from an ex-laying hen who has had a good life and it does not comes from a chicken who has had years of free range freedom. Chicken meat comes from baby chickens, chickens as young as 5-7 weeks old who still chirp and still have baby blue eyes. These selectively bred chicks are hatched and then put straight into massive sheds that can hold up to 40,000 – 60,000 chickens per shed. A farmer who has many sheds on his property can “grow” several million chickens per year. These chicks are left to their own devises for the next 5-7 weeks of their lives…the only 5-7 weeks of their lives. The sheds are lined with automatic feeders and waterers. As the chickens grow, the room for each chicken gets smaller and smaller. Chickens are trapped in their own waste. Chickens die slow and painful deaths from respiratory disorders due to constantly breathing in air from an uncleaned shed.

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Broiler chickens have been selectively bred over many years to grow incredibly large in the shortest amount of time possible. At 5 weeks old, a broiler chick looks like an adult bird. Because of these rapid growth rates, many chickens in these sheds will become crippled due to their bodies being too large for their legs to carry. They wont be able to get up and eat or drink and will slowly starve to death. At 5-7 weeks when it’s time for them to be slaughtered, the chickens are roughly picked up in bunches by one leg and thrown into a transport truck. At this point, it is the only time these lovely birds ever get to see the sky….and it will be their last that they get to see it, all because humans believe their tastebuds are more important that an individual’s life.

                                                                           Thousands and thousands of baby chickens trapped in a shed until slaughter.

Broiler chickens have a very special place in my heart. I’ve found them to be gentle, sweet individuals who create loving and emotional bonds with their friends and the people who care for them. They grieve deeply for their best friends and find comfort in a human who protects and nutures them. To rescue broiler chickens from their fate is a rewarding, yet also heartbreaking undertaking. To see these lovely chickens enjoying the sun on their faces, eating grass and dust bathing is a pure joy. But, to see them struggle with their enormous weight and know that one day soon you will loose them  due to their massive bodies and all the health problems that go along with that can often be a heavy burden on your heart. Taking on broiler chickens, you need to know that one day very soon you’ll be burying them because of their genetic problems. To be able to bury a broiler chicken with respect in their favourite spot in the garden is always so difficult, not only because you’ve lost a very important family member, but also because you know about the billions and billions and billions of other innocent and sweet individuals who never get the chance to be buried. Their bodies are eaten instead of being laid to rest.

My special rescued broiler chicken best friend. Summer. She only lived to 6 months old because of her size and died of heart related problems.

The broiler chickens in these particular images are only a week old. Curious, innocent and sweet, all they really want at this age is a mother’s comfort, protection and love – something they will never know.

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 This series is a work in progress and will feature broiler chicken sheds full of baby chickens ranging between the ages of 0-7 weeks old. I very rarely use black and white in any of my images, but this series seems to call for it. It symbolises the lack of colour in these chickens short lives. They experience nothing.They are born. Fattened up. Killed. Then eaten. Eaten with the the utmost disrespect. They are treated as nothing. They are not nothing. They are each an individual like you or I, yet, they are born to die.

Please don’t use my images without permission. All images are Copyright Tamara Kenneally

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Mary Frankland - December 6, 2016 - 6:58 am

Dear Tamara
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you for dome advice. I run a charity in Wales in the UK and we have recently rescued some broiler chicks approximately 14 days old. I see from your website and Facebook you rescue hens both ex bats and broilers.
I am struggling to find the correct diet. For them to slow their growth rate, could you give me any advice?

Warm Regards

Mary

admin - September 2, 2016 - 9:09 am

Hi Carla, try tamarakenneally@hotmail.com 🙂

Carla Grover - September 2, 2016 - 1:56 am

Hi Tamara,
A few months ago I wrote to you about my broiler hen Bessie. Bessie is about 4 months old now and is doing well. (She is VERY large!) I would love to send you a picture of her but the e-mail address listed on line doesn’t seem to work (tamarakennneallyphotography.com) Is there an e-mail I can send to?
Carla

Anonymous - July 28, 2014 - 8:45 am

where can adopt some of these chickens??

xiuximu - August 11, 2013 - 7:17 pm

I used to go to El Pllo Loco to order those chicken only meal almost every week($9.99 for 8 pieces or $ 10 for 10 pieces if you have their coupon).
After seeing pictures of your article I suddenly cried a lot and realized how cruel are our fellow human being. From now on I will never eat any meat again.
Actually you are what you eat and you will become the animal you ate in your next life and be eaten by other humans. This is the law of nature. Also I think the end of human being is near cause God will not allow this to be going on for too long if God really exists .

Tamara Kenneally - June 14, 2013 - 11:03 pm

Free Range chicken is still a terrified baby chicken Cathy, how is that better?

Nicole Thibault - June 7, 2013 - 12:23 am

I can imagine how hard it must have been for you to photograph all those precious sweet living beings while they suffer so much :'( You are an incredibly good photographer Tamara Kenneally and I have much much respect for you and your work. Thank you for showing the world! From my forever vegan heart to yours <3.

Tamara Kenneally - June 2, 2013 - 12:41 pm

Sorry Jana, but I believe in giving the animals back to the animals. Farmers should find another way of making money rather than exploiting another thinking, feeling being for it.

Jana Java - June 2, 2013 - 10:31 am

I hope you vegans will see that you should not be against people who want these atrocities to stop. You should ask them to join the good fight to demand factory farming be stopped. Farmers (Not factories) are stewards of animals) I am a meat eater but cannot stand how these animals are mistreated. give them back to the farmers so they can have a good life and then be used to feed people. I hope you see this will not stop if you cannot accept meat eating people as people who want them treated humanley. More might be accomplished if you had a more open mindset to us. Banning together is the only way to stop this cruelty…..

BAAC - May 17, 2013 - 9:07 am

The only way to stop this unnecessary cruelty is to go vegan. Free Range does not work.

Deb Brad - May 17, 2013 - 5:19 am

Go vegan…..this is evil.

Pat Nelson - May 16, 2013 - 11:40 pm

When I went to a farm once to get hay, they had one broiler chicken, who had somehow escaped the trip to the slaughter house, and they gave her to me. I had her for less than 2 weeks; she had stage 4 bumble foot, it turns out, and apparently, my vet told me, that the infection was already in her bones and she could not be saved. She was a wild little thing for exactly 1 day. And then because she knew I was trying to make her better, and made sure she got food and a safe comfortable place to sleep, she would hobble across the grass (she walked on her hocks) to meet me so that I could pick her up and carry her into her sleeping spot in the workshop each night. She was so patient while I treated her feet, usually eating an entire peach during the process. RIP Eileen. At least she rests in a marked grave, unlike the millions and millions that are eaten. She was one sweet girl. Lovely pictures, thank you. If you can just make people think about WHO they are eating, you will save more girls like Eileen.

Kathy Ryder - May 16, 2013 - 11:27 pm

Thank you for the work you do Tamara. I’m happy to be able to say that I’m vegan.

Red Sonja - May 16, 2013 - 10:13 pm

Do not support any form of animal exploitation! GO VEGAN <3

Tamara Kenneally - May 12, 2013 - 12:17 pm

No. Do not support free range chicken. Free range chicken is still a baby chicken who is 5-7 weeks old who is terrified and has a right to live and was NOT born just so you could eat him or her.

Cathy Lai - May 12, 2013 - 9:23 am

Support free range chicken

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