Rest and activity enrichment use by slower-growing broilers : a pilot study
Eijk, J.A.J. van der; Almekinders, T.A.A.; Jong, I.C. de
In the Netherlands, the production of broiler chickens experienced a significant change between 2014 and 2016 due to alternative production concepts being introduced, i.e. the slower-growing concept. Currently, around 35-40% of broiler chickens is produced in the Netherlands according to this slower-growing concept. However, because the slower growing breeds have only recently been introduced, we lack knowledge with regard to the environmental enrichments that are needed to meet their behavioural needs. This pilot study was performed within the PPP Slower growing broiler chickens (SloGro/SloBro) and aimed to identify the preference of slower-growing broilers for different types of rest (round metal perch, mushroom plastic perch, flat-shape plastic perch, round wooden perch and platform) and activity enrichment (firmly pressed straw bale (control, current standard), loosely pressed straw bale and lucerne bale). The number of birds sitting on the platforms was 8 times higher as compared to the perch types combined. When looking at the number of birds sitting under the different types of rest enrichments, birds seemed to have a slight preference to sit under the round metal perch, while the round wooden perch was least preferred. The number of birds sitting on the loosely pressed straw bales was higher compared to the number of birds on the firmly pressed straw and lucerne bales. This might be related to less birds sitting around the loosely pressed straw bales and therefore less disturbance compared to the firmly pressed straw and lucerne bales. To conclude, slower-growing broilers preferred platforms over perches. With regard to activity enrichments, slower-growing broilers seemed to prefer to sit on loosely pressed straw bales, while they seemed to prefer to sit around firmly pressed straw and lucerne bales.