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Animal welfare — protection of chickens kept for meat production



Directive 2007/43/EC — minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production


  • It aims to introduce rules for animal welfare improvements in holdings in the European Union (EU) where chickens are kept for meat production.
  • These rules are designed to avoid distortions of competition in the sector.



  • The directive applies to chickens kept for meat production (broiler chickens), and rearing stock on holdings which have both breeding stock and rearing stock.
  • It does not apply to:
    • holdings with fewer than 500 chickens;
    • holdings with only breeding stocks of chickens;
    • hatcheries*;
    • extensive indoor and free-range chickens; and
    • organically reared chickens.

Rules that apply to all holdings

  • Poultry houses where chickens are kept must allow all chickens adequate access to:
    • drinking water;
    • feed; and
    • dry and friable litter.
  • Buildings must have adequate lighting during the lighting periods and sufficient ventilation.
  • All chickens kept on the holdings must be inspected at least twice a day.
  • Chickens that are seriously injured or in poor health must be treated or immediately culled.
  • Surgical procedures performed for purposes other than medical treatment are generally prohibited. Beak trimming and castration are only permitted in certain cases.
  • The owner or keeper must keep records of each poultry house on their holding:
    • the number of chickens introduced and remaining following the removal of chickens for sale and slaughter;
    • the usable area;
    • the breed or type of hybrid of the chickens; and
    • the mortality rate.

Stocking density *

  • EU Member States must ensure that maximum stocking density in a holding or a poultry house on a holding does not at any time exceed 33 kg/m2.
  • A higher stocking density of a maximum of 39 kg/m2 is permitted if the owner or keeper complies with the requirements set out in the directive’s Annex II (environment parameters). The owner or keeper must supply the competent authorities with specific documentation containing technical details relating to the holding and its equipment.
  • Such high-density holdings must be equipped with ventilation, heating and cooling systems to maintain the appropriate temperature, humidity and CO2 and NH3 concentrations.
  • In exceptional circumstances, defined in Annex V, the stocking density may rise to a maximum of 42 kg/m2.


  • Persons attending to chickens must hold a certificate attesting they have completed an approved training course or have experience equivalent to such training. Training courses must cover the following welfare aspects:
    • the stocking density requirements for holdings;
    • animal physiology;
    • handling chickens and administering emergency care; and
    • preventive biosecurity.
  • Member States must encourage the development and distribution of guides to good management practice.


National authorities must carry out regular inspections of holdings to ensure compliance with the directive. Each year, they must submit a report to the European Commission on the inspections carried out and a list of actions taken to address any welfare problems detected.

Monitoring and follow-up at slaughterhouses

Monitoring at slaughterhouses ensures that the number of broilers dead on arrival are recorded. Signs of poor welfare conditions may be identified in the course of post mortem inspections. If such signs are revealed, the holding and the competent authorities must take appropriate measures.


  • In recent years, a wide range of metabolic and behavioural traits in broilers has been modified by genetic selection, leading to various welfare issues. These include leg problems affecting movement, sudden death syndrome and skin diseases such as contact dermatitis. In 2016, the Commission published a report looking at the influence of genetic parameters on identified deficiencies resulting in poor welfare of chickens. It concluded that:
    • breeders are progressively taking into account traits related to chicken health and welfare in their selection programmes; and
    • the current legislation provides a monitoring system for animal welfare indicators in commercial conditions that could be further used in the context of genetic selection.
  • In 2018, the Commission published a report on the application of Directive 2007/43/EC and its influence on the welfare of chickens kept for meat production, as well as the development of welfare indicators.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed assists the Commission in implementing this directive.


Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on enforcing EU rules for the agri-food chain (see summary) introduced some minor amendments to Regulation (EC) No 1/2005. The amending regulation brings official controls in all the various segments of the supply chain (including animal welfare) under the same legal umbrella. It also provides for new EU reference centres for animal welfare to be established. These centres will undertake scientific and technical studies, conduct training courses, make research findings available and provide scientific and technical advice to Member States. An implementing act, Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1685, designated an EU reference centre for poultry and other small farmed animals.


It has applied since 1 August 2007 and had to become law in the Member States by 30 June 2010.


For further information, see:


Hatchery. A building where poultry eggs are hatched, often under artificial conditions using incubators.
Stocking density. The total live weight of chickens that are present in a house at the same time per square metre of useable area.


Council Directive 2007/43/EC of 28 June 2007 laying down minimum rules for the protection of chickens kept for meat production (OJ L 182, 12.7.2007, pp. 19–28).

Successive amendments to Directive 2007/43/EC have been incorporated in the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1685 of 4 October 2019 designating a European Union Reference Centre for Animal Welfare for poultry and other small farmed animals (OJ L 258, 9.10.2019, pp. 11–12).

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on the application of Directive 2007/43/EC and its influence on the welfare of chickens kept for meat production, as well as the development of welfare indicators (COM(2018) 181 final, 13.4.2018).

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on the impact of genetic selection on the welfare of chickens kept for meat production (COM(2016) 182 final, 7.4.2016).

last update 09.11.2021