The effect of level of straw bale provision on the behaviour and leg health of commercial broiler chickens

C. L. Bailie, N. E. O'Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

This study aimed to assess the effect of the number of straw bales (SBs) provided on the behaviour and leg health of commercial broiler chickens. Houses containing ~23 000 broiler chickens were assigned to one of two treatments: (1) access to 30 SBs per house, ‘30SB’ or (2) access to 45 SB per house, ‘45SB’. This equated to bale densities of 1 bale/44 m2 and 1 bale/29 m2 of floor space within houses, respectively. Treatments were applied in one of two houses on a commercial farm, and were replicated over six production cycles. Both houses had windows and were also artificially lit. Behaviour was observed in weeks 3 to5 of the cycle. This involved observations of general behaviour and activity, gait scores (0: perfect to 5: unable to walk) and latency to lie (measured in seconds from when a bird had been encouraged to stand). Production performance and environmental parameters were also measured. SB density had no significant effect on activity levels (P>0.05) or walking ability (P>0.05). However, the average latency to lie was greater in 30SB birds compared with 45SB birds (P<0.05). The incidence of hock burn and podo dermatitis, average BW at slaughter and levels of mortality and culling were unaffected by SB density (P>0.05). The results from this study suggest that increasing SB levels from 1 bale/44 m2 to 1 bale/29 m2 floor space does not lead to significant improvements in the welfare of commercial broiler chickens in windowed houses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1715-1721
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal
Volume8
Issue number10
Early online date19 Jun 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

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