What's New ? - 2020

What's New ? - 2020

Breed affects animal welfare more than stocking density

Scientific Reports | 2020, 10:15151 3 October, 2020

A new research conducted by Anglo-Norwegian researchers found that slower growing broiler chickens are healthier and have more fun than conventional breeds of fast growing birds. The study showed that, while providing chickens with space had benefits, by slightly lowering the animal density, changing to a slower‑growing breed resulted in much better health and more positive experiences for these birds.
The commercial-scale farm trial explored a comprehensive suite of positive and negative welfare indicators in four production systems varying in stocking density and breed. One slower growing breed (the slowest) was stocked at a planned maximum density of 30 kg/m2, a second slower growing breed at planned densities of 30 kg/m2 and 34 kg/m2, and the welfare outcomes were compared to those of a standard fast-growing breed stocked at 34kg/m2.
At the lower density, the slowest growing breed was found to have slightly better welfare than the other slower growing breed- as indicated by lower mortality, fewer rejections at processing and better walking ability. Differences in welfare of the slower growing breed stocked at two densities were small. However, prominent differences were found between the standard fast-growing birds stocked at 34kg/m2 and birds in the three other systems. The standard birds experienced poorer health as indicated by higher levels of mortality, hock burn and pododermatitis as well as greater rejections at processing. Furthermore, the conventional birds showed less perching on enrichment bales as well as fewer positive 'play' and 'exploration' behaviors.