Proper building design and accessibility for transport vehicles greatly improve the humane handling of loose-housed poultry. Farm owners must ensure that driveways and yards are well maintained and free from any obstructions. Farm owners should also ensure that building design minimizes the transfer of birds between handlers and is adapted to the catching and loading equipment used including sufficient number and size of door and floor openings. Openings through which birds are passed must be wide enough to ensure that birds are not injured. Ideally, both external and internal lighting should be dimmable to allow sufficient light for safe loading/unloading while keeping birds calm.
Next, provide a smooth transition from inside the barn to the outside loading area (no raised door sills or abrupt grade changes) and vice versa to prevent containers bouncing or being bumped during transport into/out of barn. Provide a level and firm loading/unloading area outside of each loading door; a concrete pad is preferred. The Codes of Practice for all poultry require that poultry housing be designed and constructed in a manner that allows for good ventilation and air quality with respect to temperature, relative humidity, dust level, ammonia, and carbon dioxide. Providing optimum environmental conditions within the barn, will promote a healthy flock. Crates conditions must be managed to keep birds dry, e.g.
dry bedding applied to any damp areas of the barn, calibrate misters to maintain appropriate droplet size, and prevent leaking. As part of the daily routine, the farm owner or their personnel should identify birds that have DO NOT LOAD conditions to prevent euthanasia. It is important for the farm owner or farm personnel to provide an accurate estimate of average bird weight and bird count so that the processor can plan for the appropriate number of containers required and calculate correct loading density. Proper loading density is important for poultry welfare during transport.
Bird count can be determined by subtracting cumulative mortality and culled birds from the total number of chicks or poults placed. The farm owner or farm personnel are to advise processors of any health issues with the flock at any time prior to loading, e.g. respiratory problems. Feed withdrawal times should be determined in consultation with the processor, respecting the transport regulations within the Health of Animals Act.
Water should be available to the birds until time of catching. Before loading the birds, the farm owner or manager should ensure birds are ready to load. The farm owner or manager should also evaluate flock fitness for transport including any health challenges. Look for signs of heat stress such as rapid and open-mouth panting, wing spreading and squatting close to the ground, birds with red/flushed faces, combs and wattles or birds that are difficult to move (lethargic), and an implement procedures to reduce bird stress.
During loading, the farmer and farm personnel should do everything possible to protect the birds from being exposed to a sudden change in temperature. Consider preconditioning the birds by lowering barn temperature in cold weather or raising it in warm weather. Be flexible to allow for changes in loading times that will reduce bird stress. For example, loading later in the evening during periods of heat and humidity. Develop contingency plans in the event that birds cannot be loaded due to flock health issues, such as wind chill, road closures or, conversely, extreme heat and humidity. At the request of the processor or transporter, the farm owner or farm personnel should provide information on barn orientation and loading doors relative to the sun and wind to assist in establishing an appropriate loading time.
The catching area must promote safe and humane handling and catching. The barn must be prepared by the farm owner or farm personnel before being entered by workers, including raising feed and water lines. The farmer or farm representative should be present during the catching and loading process.
The ventilation system should be operating for the duration of loading to provide fresh air to the barn area. Ensure the fan exhaust is not causing temperature or dust issues outside at the truck. Do not load wet birds in cool or cold weather. Wet birds that are loaded in cool or cold weather are at high risk of poor welfare including death. Every effort should be taken to ensure the birds are dry when they are loaded and stay dry during transport.
Protect birds from getting wet during loading by using tarps and eaves troughs.