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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Associations between welfare and ranging profile in free-range commercial and heritage meat-purpose chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus)

Marchewka, Joanna; Sztandarski, Patryk; Zdanowska-Sasiadek, Zaneta; Damaziak, Krzysztof; Wojciechowski, Franciszek; Riber, Anja B.; Gunnarsson, Stefan


Despite consumers' belief that access to an outdoor range improves chicken welfare, still little is known about whether this is true and whether individual ranging profiles relate to the birds' welfare. The aim of the present study was to identify and compare welfare issues of the traditional broiler hybrid Sasso and the Polish heritage chicken Green-legged Partridge, having outdoor access, and examine if the birds' welfare status was associated with the ranging profile: outdoor preferring, moderate-outdoor, and indoor-preferring. In August 2018, 60 non-beak trimmed birds per genetic strain were housed in groups of 10 from weeks 5 to 10, under conditions exceeding EU requirements of organic meat chicken production. Each pen had access to an individual outdoor range that was video-recorded continuously to obtain frequencies of individual birds' use of the ranges. Plumage condition, comb pecking wounds, skin injuries, dirtiness, toe damage, eye pathologies, footpad dermatitis, hock burns, respiratory infections, diarrhea, and walking difficulties were assessed at the end of the experiment. Statistical analysis was conducted applying generalized linear mixed models, with binomial distribution and logit link using SAS software, applying breed and ranging profile as fixed factors and their interaction, with pen as random factor. A tendency for more respiratory infections was observed in Sasso birds from each ranging profile, as compared to matching ranging profiles presented by Green-legged Partridges (outdoor -preferring: P = 0.0012; moderate-outdoor: P < 0.0001; and indoor-preferring: P = 0.0247). Indoor-preferring Green legged Partridges tended to present more respiratory infections, as compared to the 2 other ranging profiles within the breed (outdoor-preferring: P = 0.0291; moderate-outdoor: P = 0.0448). Regardless of the breed, toe damages were more frequent in indoor-preferring birds, as compared to other ranging profiles (P = 0.017). It remains unknown whether the use of outdoor areas prevents development of welfare issues or if birds with a suboptimal welfare condition become indoor-preferring individuals.


free range; broiler; ranging profile; animal welfare; organic

Published in

Poultry Science
2020, volume: 99, number: 9, pages: 4141-4152
Publisher: ELSEVIER

Authors' information

Marchewka, Joanna
Polish Academy of Sciences
Sztandarski, Patryk
Polish Academy of Sciences
Zdanowska-Sasiadek, Zaneta
Polish Academy of Sciences
Damaziak, Krzysztof
Warsaw University of Life Sciences
Wojciechowski, Franciszek
Polish Academy of Sciences
Riber, Anja B.
Aarhus University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

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