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Neighbourhood analysis as an indicator of spatial requirements of broiler chickens

By Stephanie Buijs, Linda J. Keeling, Carl Vangestel, Jeroen Baert, Frank A. M. Tuyttens

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Abstract

The appropriate stocking density for broiler chickens is a much discussed topic in animal welfare. To determine at which stocking density the level of crowding becomes aversive to 4–6-week-old broiler chickens, spatial distribution and behaviour of groups stocked at 8, 19, 29, 40, 45, 51, 61 or 72birds per 3.3m2 were analysed. Spatial distribution was evaluated using three different indices: inter-individual distances, nearest neighbour distances and Dirichlet polygon areas. The assumption was that broilers would increase the distance to their pen mates if high densities (i.e., close proximity to pen mates) were experienced as aversive, whereas they would decrease this distance if close proximity was experienced positively. Increased distances to pen mates would lead to increased nearest neighbour distances and a more homogeneous distribution (i.e., lower variation of inter-individual distances and of Dirichlet-polygon size) than expected by chance. The distribution expected by chance was determined from both a random distribution and a ‘resource-corrected’ random distribution (which incorporated environmental influences on spatial distribution but excluded social ones). Behavioural observations showed that at higher stocking densities more sitting bouts (P=0.003) and adjustments of the sitting and lying posture (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 129
Issue 2
Pages 111-120
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2010.11.017
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Chickens
  3. Crowding
  4. space