According to National Public Radio, Purdue Farms is making efforts to raise chickens under better conditions with large windows and places for them to roost. When Leah Garces, the executive director of an organization called Compassion in World Farming, was given a tour of a new-style chicken house alongside a more typical factory farm building, she noted that while the chickens in the latter were quiet and immobile, those in the new facility were "running around, climbing on things, pecking, perching."
Part of this is that the new facility uses a different breed of chicken, one not bred with the single-minded purpose of growing rapidly, often so rapidly that their bones can barely support them.
Purdue claims that the better-treated, more active, slower-growing chickens have better-tasting meat. The company is also under pressure from customers such as restaurant chains that want to be able to say their chickens are treated more humanely. The chickens will also be rendered unconscious by a gas before they are slaughtered.
Obviously they're still slaughtered far short of normal lifespan, so it's hard to argue the new practices are free of cruelty. On the other hand, we humans aren't likely to turn 100 percent vegan anytime soon, and nonhuman predators in the wild don't exactly treat their prey with kindness.