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Ranging Behaviour of Commercial Free-Range Broiler Chickens 1: Factors Related to Flock Variability

By Peta S Taylor, Paul H Hemsworth, Peter J Groves, Sabine G Gebhardt-Henrich, Jean-Loup Rault

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Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Little is known about the ranging behaviour of chickens. Understanding ranging behaviour is required to improve management and shed and range design to ensure optimal ranging opportunities. Using Radio Frequency Identification technology, we tracked 300 individual broiler chickens in each of four mixed sex ROSS 308 flocks on one commercial farm across two seasons. Ranging behaviour was tracked from the first day of range access (21 days of age) until 35 days of age in winter and 44 days of age in summer. Range use was higher than previously reported from scan sampling studies. More chickens accessed the range in summer (81%) than winter (32%; p < 0.05). On average, daily frequency and duration of range use was greater in summer flocks (4.4 ± 0.1 visits for a total of 26.3 ± 0.8 min/day) than winter flocks (3.2 ± 0.2 visits for a total of 7.9 ± 1.0 min/day). Seasonal differences were only marginally explained by weather conditions and may reflect the reduction in range exposure between seasons (number of days, hours per day, and time of day). Specific times of the day (p < 0.01) and pop-holes were favoured (p < 0.05). We provide evidence of relationships between ranging and external factors that may explain ranging preferences.

Submitter

Spencer CW Au

Date 2017
Publication Title Animals
Volume 7
Issue 7
Pages 14
Publisher MDPI AG
Location of Publication Basel, Switzerland
DOI 10.3390/ani7070054
URL http://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/7/7/54
Language English
Tags
  1. Animal consciousness
  2. Animal roles
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Birds
  5. Farm animals
  6. Farms
  7. Food animals
  8. Meat Chicken
  9. Outdoor
  10. pastures
  11. Physical environment
  12. Poultry
  13. Range
  14. RFID
  15. welfare