Our cookies

We use cookies, which are small text files, to improve your experience on our website.
You can allow or reject non essential cookies or manage them individually.

Reject allAllow all

More options  •  Cookie policy

Our cookies

Allow all

We use cookies, which are small text files, to improve your experience on our website. You can allow all or manage them individually.

You can find out more on our cookie page at any time.

EssentialThese cookies are needed for essential functions such as logging in and making payments. Standard cookies can’t be switched off and they don’t store any of your information.
AnalyticsThese cookies help us collect information such as how many people are using our site or which pages are popular to help us improve customer experience. Switching off these cookies will reduce our ability to gather information to improve the experience.
FunctionalThese cookies are related to features that make your experience better. They enable basic functions such as social media sharing. Switching off these cookies will mean that areas of our website can’t work properly.

Save preferences

pigs faceAge and weight impacts on affective states of fast- and slow-growing broilers housed in complex or barren conditions

 

Year: 2022

Leonie Jacobs
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

Grant: £9,212


 

Commercially fast-growing broiler chickens can experience poor welfare conditions due to barren conditions and their rapid growth. As fast-growing broilers grow and gain weight, their health can deteriorate and behavioral repertoire limited. The use of slower-growing strains and/or providing a more complex environment, could benefit broiler welfare.

This study examined the impact of body weight and environmental complexity on broiler chicken affective states behavior in two genetic strains. We tested two genetic strains (fast-growing and slow-growing) and two housing conditions (high-complexity and low-complexity) and assessed affect and behavior at age- or weight-matched timepoints.

Slow-growing broilers were less anxious than fast-growing broilers. However, anxiety increased with weight gain in both strains. Chronic stress, measured by feather corticosterone, varied between strains and weights, with higher concentrations in fast-growing birds at low body weights. Environmental complexity did not impact chronic stress responses. Age negatively impacted consummatory, exploratory, play, and active behaviors similarly for both strains. Fast-growing birds showed fewer locomotive, play, and social behaviors compared to slow-growing birds. Environmental complexity only influenced locomotive behavior, with more observed in a simple environment.

In conclusion, slow-growing broilers generally showed improved affect and behavior compared to fast-growing broilers. The effects of weight gain on affective states depended on genetic strain and environmental complexity. Overall, producers may improve affect and behavior of broilers by using slow-growing strains, processing broilers at lower weights (when housed with enrichments), or increasing environmental complexity using slow- or fast-growing strains (as anxiety was reduced at 1 and 2 kg body weights).