Slow and steady wins the race? No signs of reduced welfare in smallerbroiler breeder hens at four weeks of age
2015 (English)In: Animal Welfare, ISSN 0962-7286, Vol. 24, no 4, 447-454 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Broiler breeder chickens are commonly reared under strict feed-restriction regimes to reduce obesity-induced health and fertilityproblems during adult life, and are assumed to experience a reduced welfare due to the resulting hunger. In these conditions, feedcompetition could influence the growth rate, so that the individuals falling behind in growth would experience more stress and hunger.We hypothesised that these chickens are poor competitors due to a reactive coping style and experience a further reduced welfaresituation before size-sorting (‘grading’) at four weeks of age. Our results from open field, tonic immobility and home pen activity monitoringshow signs of lower fear and higher home-pen activity levels in smaller hens and do not support the idea of reactive coping.H/L ratios of smaller hens were also found to be lower, indicating less stress in these birds. Dissections of smaller and larger fourweekbreeder hens may offer an explanation in the form of a relatively larger gastrointestinal tract in smaller birds. We argue thatthis is a form of habituation to restricted feeding, offering these birds a physiological stress coping mechanism, and that low earlygrowth rate may not always be a sign of poorer welfare in broiler breeders.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Universities Federation for Animal Welfare , 2015. Vol. 24, no 4, 447-454 p.
animal welfare, broiler breeders, chicken, feed restriction, growth, stress
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-122024DOI: 10.7120/096272188.8.131.527ISI: 000363898500009OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-122024DiVA: diva2:861396
Funding agencies: Swedish research council Formas [2013-293]2015-10-162015-10-162015-12-03