Little is known about broiler chicken ranging behaviour. Previous studies have monitored ranging behaviour at flock level but whether individual ranging behaviour varies within a flock is unknown. Using Radio Frequency Identification technology, we tracked 1200 individual ROSS 308 broiler chickens across four mixed sex flocks in two seasons on one commercial farm. Ranging behaviour was tracked from first day of range access (21 days of age) until 35 days of age in winter flocks and 44 days of age in summer flocks. We identified groups of chickens that differed in frequency of range visits: chickens that never accessed the range (13 to 67% of tagged chickens), low ranging chickens (15 to 44% of tagged chickens) that accounted for <15% of all range visits and included chickens that used the range only once (6 to 12% of tagged chickens), and high ranging chickens (3 to 9% of tagged chickens) that accounted for 33 to 50% of all range visits. Males spent longer on the range than females in winter (p < 0.05). Identifying the causes of inter-individual variation in ranging behaviour may help optimise ranging opportunities in free-range systems and is important to elucidate the potential welfare implications of ranging.
Spencer CW Au administrator
|Location of Publication||Basel, Switzerland|