Non-intrusive tracking of commercial broiler chickens in situ at different stocking densities

Collins, L M (2008) Non-intrusive tracking of commercial broiler chickens in situ at different stocking densities. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 112 (1-2). pp. 94-105.

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Abstract

Unlike several other farm animal species, the broiler chicken remains unprotected by species-specific legislation. The densities at which broilers should be kept is a highly contentious issue-some studies have demonstrated increased welfare problems at higher densities, whilst a few others have, contrary to expectations, suggested that broilers may actually find crowds of other birds attractive. A tracking method was developed and used to provide an insight into the social preferences of commercial broiler chickens in situ-inside commercial, closed-system broiler houses. The aim was to simultaneously assess the relative impact of global measures of density, such as target and actual stocking densities and local measures of the social environment on the behaviour and route taken to feed by focal birds. Birds were tracked inside 20 commercial broiler houses across the UK. Results from this study show that stocking density per se seems to have little direct effect on the individual behaviours of focal broiler chickens. However, there may still be an indirect effect of stocking density on broiler behaviour, mediated through the local social environment. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.