Contrary to a commonly held belief that broiler chickens need more space, there is increasing evidence that these birds are attracted to other birds. Indeed, commercially farmed birds exhibit a range of socially facilitated behaviours, such as increased feeding and preening in response to the presence of other birds. Social facilitation can generate feedback loops, whereby the adoption of a particular behaviour can spread rapidly and suddenly through the population. Here, by measuring the rate at which broiler chickens join and leave a feeding trough as a function of the number of birds already there, we quantify social facilitation. We use these measurements to parameterize a simulation model of chicken feeding behaviour. This model predicts, and further observations of broiler chickens confirm, that social facilitation leads to excitatory and synchronized patterns of group feeding. Such models could prove a powerful tool in understanding how feeding patterns depend on broiler house design.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering