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Space needs of broilers

By E. A. M. Bokkers, I. J. M. de Boer, P. Koene

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There is continuing debate about the space needs and requirements of broiler chickens, The aims of this study were to measure the amount of floor area a six-week-old broiler occupies for different behaviours and to use the obtained results in two models to estimate the number of birds that can be kept per m2 in large flocks simulating different levels of behavioural synchronisation. Photographs were taken of overhead projections of broilers (2.468 kg on average) kept in floor pens of 1 m2 with either eight (low density) or 16 birds (high density) per pen. Individual body space was measured from these photographs for seven behaviours. Posture and density affected body space of the behaviours idle, drinking, and ground pecking. The first model, computing space needed per bird performing a behaviour in relation to flock size, showed that 15.3-15.7 birds m-2 (37.8-38.7 kg m-2) can be housed maximally, based on low density measurements and 18.5-19.4 birds m-2 (45.7-47.9 kg m-2) based on high density measurements. The second model, computing stocking density based on synchronisation of behaviour and body space, showed that 13.7-15.9 birds m-2 (33.8-39.2 kg m-2) can be housed maximally based on low density measurements and 15.4-18.6 birds m-2 (38.0-45.9 kg m-2) based on high density measurements. Results based on high density measurements implied that birds are compressed. Given the restrictions of a limited number of behaviours and no inclusion of movement and social interactions in the models of this study, stocking density in large flocks should not exceed 16 birds m-2 (39.4 kg) because that would lead to compression of birds which will suppress opportunities for behavioural expression and therefore impair welfare.

Date 2011
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 20
Issue 4
Pages 623-632
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Animal Production Systems Group, Wageningen Institute of Animal Sciences, Wageningen University, PO Box 338, 6700 AH, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal husbandry
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Birds
  5. Chickens
  6. Flocks
  7. Fowls
  8. Interactions
  9. Meat animals
  10. models
  11. Occupations and Professions
  12. pecking
  13. peer-reviewed
  14. pens
  15. photography
  16. Posture
  17. Poultry
  18. restrictions
  19. stocking density
  1. peer-reviewed