Functilight: Light provision that promotes poultry welfare

Light is an important aspect in broiler and layer pullet management, as it affects welfare including health and performance. In Functilight we develop light programs for broiler chickens and laying hens based on the needs of the chickens, promoting natural behaviour.

Light management on broiler and pullet farms

Light has many aspects: spectrum (colour, UV provision), intensity, variation (during the day and with age and in the house), and light schedule (light-dark rhythm), and these likely interact with each other. In husbandry guides, quality schemes and legislation, often only light intensity (measured in Lux) and light schedule are included, as these were the only features that could be adjusted/measured before the introduction of new technologies such as LED lights. With the development of new light technologies it is now possible to adjust lighting in any possible way to meet the needs of the birds, depending on the type of chicken, age, time of day and functional area in the house. However, despite these new technologies and the increasing application of LED lights in poultry houses, in practice lighting programs are often only based on assumptions, because the actual needs and preferences of the chickens are unknown.

Project approach

In Functilight we will first determine the preference of fast- and slower-growing broiler chickens and white and brown layer pullets for light intensity, spectrum and their interaction. For broiler chickens a separate work package will be dedicated to daylight, because new housing systems often include daylight provision without actual justification of the need for daylight. The results of the preference tests will be used to develop dynamic light programs, varying with age, time of the day and location in the house, that better meet the needs of the broiler chicken/layer pullet as compared to the current light programs. These light programs will then be tested under commercial conditions.

Expected results

At the end of Functilight, we will have insight in the preferences and needs of fast- and slower growing broilers and layer pullets with regard to light aspects (spectrum, intensity, source (artificial vs. daylight). In addition, we then have developed light programs (including daylight program) for fast- and slower-growing broilers that stimulate their natural behaviour in relation to functional areas in the house, improve their welfare and guarantee optimal performance. For white and brown layer pullets we know which light program stimulates their natural behaviour, prevents the development of injurious pecking, improves their navigation abilities in housing systems and supports their overall welfare.