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Indoor side fidelity and outdoor ranging in commercial free-range chickens in single- or double-sided sheds

By Jean-Loup Rault, Peta S. Taylor

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Abstract

The ranging behaviour of broiler chickens kept in free-range housing systems remains poorly understood, despite access to the outdoor range being their main feature. We investigated the impact of allowing chickens to have range access on both sides vs. one side of the shed, using 24 flocks of approximately 40,000 Ross 308 chickens of mixed sex on one commercial farm across winter and summer. Sheds were identical and pseudo-randomly allocated to either double-sided (no modification) or single-sided (by keeping one side closed at all time) range access treatment. Flocks were first provided with range access from 15 to 17 and 21 to 27days of age for summer and winter flocks, respectively. Live outdoor observations were conducted daily for the first week after first range access and every other day from the second week onwards until the day prior to depopulation (44days of age), twice daily in each morning and evening during anticipated peaks of range use. Indoor side fidelity was also assessed by spray marking 320 chickens in total on the right- and left-hand side of the shed, one colour each side, and conducting two to four repeated counts of the colour-marked individuals in each location over the week following marking. Indoor count results showed that colour-marked chickens had 50% chance of being found on either side of the shed (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 194
Pages 48-53
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.05.010
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Design
  3. Poultry
  4. welfare