Abstracts: Review of environmental enrichment for broiler chickens

Welfare problems are commonly found in both conventional and organic production of broiler chickens. In order to reduce the extent of welfare problems, it has been suggested to provide stimulating, enriched environments. The aim of the present paper is to provide a review of the effect on behaviour and welfare of the different kinds of environmental enrichments in the production of broilers that have been described in the scientific literature.

Environmental enrichment is defined as an improvement of the environment of captive animals, which increases the behavioural opportunities of the animal and leads to improvements of the biological function. This definition has been broadened to include practical and economic aspects, as any enrichment strategy that adversely affects the health of animals or that has too many economic or practical constraints will never be implemented on commercial farms and thus never benefit animals. Environmental enrichment for broilers often has the purpose of satisfying behavioural needs and/or stimulating the broilers to an increased level of activity, which among others will reduce the occurrence of leg problems.

Potentially successful environmental enrichments for broiler chickens are elevated resting-places, panels, barriers, and bales of straw (“point-source enrichment”), as well as covered verandas and outdoor ranges (“complex enriched environments”).

Many of the ideas for environmental enrichment for broilers need to be further developed and studied, preferably in commercial trials, with respect to the use, the effect on behaviour and on other welfare aspects such as leg health, and the interaction with genotype, production system, stocking density, light, and flock size.

In addition, information on the practical application and the economics of the production system is often lacking, although it is important for application in practice.

The study is from the Department of Animal Science, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark; Cerebrus Associates Ltd, The White House, Surrey, UK; and Wageningen Livestock Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Riber AB, van de Weerd HA, de Jong IC, Steenfeldt S. Poult Sci 2017. doi: 10.3382/ps/pex344.

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