Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021
Behaviour in Slower-Growing Broilers and Free-Range Access on Organic Farms in SwedenGoransson, Lina; Gunnarsson, Stefan; Wallenbeck, Anna; Yngvesson, Jenny
AbstractSimple Summary:& nbsp;Outdoor access, environmental enrichment and more slower-growing hybrids are means to improve broiler welfare in organic production. Two slower-growing hybrids are currently reared on organic farms in Sweden, but knowledge of bird welfare is limited. Therefore this study surveyed chicken behaviour, including free-range use and features of this, on Swedish organic farms. The results showed that, even towards the end of their production cycle, the chickens were agile enough to ascend various objects for perching. The birds were highly motivated to do so and were provided with a variety of items for perching across farms, but the quantity appeared to be insufficient. On average, almost half of all birds observed on the floor, were in a sitting posture. Free-range areas generally lacked sufficient vegetation cover or artificial shelters, and chickens were mainly observed ranging close to the house. This is novel information on the behaviour and free-range use of two slower-growing hybrids on Swedish organic farms. Key improvements to the indoor environment (e.g., environmental enrichment) and outdoor environment (e.g., vegetation or artificial shelter) could increase broiler welfare. Further research should explore feasible ways for farmers to implement such measures.
Two slower-growing hybrids (Rowan Ranger and Hubbard) are currently reared in organic broiler production in Sweden, but knowledge of bird welfare on commercial farms is limited. This study examined chicken behaviour, including free-range use and features of this, in order to enhance knowledge, describe the current situation and identify practical solutions on Swedish organic broiler farms. Eight of 12 available farms were visited once each, when average flock age was 55 & PLUSMN; 6 days. Farmer interviews were followed by avoidance distance tests, group behavioural observations, and assessment of use of environmental enrichment and free-range by the chickens. On average, almost half of all birds observed indoors were in a sitting posture. However, even when approaching slaughter age, the chickens were agile enough to perch and used some of the variety of items provided for perching, but the quantity of environmental enrichment equipment appeared to be insufficient. Free-range areas generally lacked sufficient vegetation cover or artificial shelters, and chickens were predominantly observed ranging near the house. Further research should explore feasible ways for farmers to make key improvements to the indoor and outdoor environment, in order to improve broiler welfare.
Keywordswelfare; chicken; environmental enrichment; avoidance distance test; slow-growing; predation
2021, volume: 11, number: 10, article number: 2967
UKÄ Subject classification
Animal and Dairy Science
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