A novel environmental enrichment device increased physical activity and walking distance in broilers

Date
2019-01-01
Authors
Meyer, Meaghan
Johnson, Anna
Bobeck, Elizabeth
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Animal Science
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Abstract

Modern broilers are selected for fast growth and a large proportion of breast tissue, contributing to a top-heavy phenotype, leg disorders, and inactivity as birds reach market weight. Therefore, the objective was to motivate broilers to move through environmental enrichment. A total of 1,200 Ross 308 broilers were housed in pens of 30 for 6 wk: 600 birds were exposed to a novel laser enrichment device (LASER) and 600 were control. Each device projected 2 randomly moving red laser dots onto the floor 4 times/day for 4-min “laser periods.” Seven LASER and 7 control pens, with 5 focal birds/pen (n = 70), were randomly selected to be video-recorded day 0 to 8 and once weekly for the remainder of the trial. Videos were analyzed to measure broiler time-budget and behaviors such as latency to feed and distance walked during laser periods. Focal birds were gait scored weekly on-farm. A test of the human-approach paradigm was carried out on weeks 1 and 6 on all pens. LASER birds were more active on days 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 8, moving 254% more on day 7 (P ≤ 0.05). Time spent active was increased in LASER treatment by 114% on week 2; 157% on week 3; 90% on week 4; and 82% on week 5. LASER birds spent more time at the feeder on days 0, 1, 2, 5, 8, and on weeks 1 and 5, with 84% more time at feeder than control on day 5 (P ≤ 0.05). LASER birds walked further during laser periods on day 0 to 8, reaching 646.5 cm greater (day 1), and on weeks 2, 3, 4, and 5, with an increase of 367.5 cm on week 2 (P ≤ 0.05). Over week 1 to 6, 60.54 ± 7.4% of focal birds in the laser treatment were at the feeder during or within 5 min following laser periods. The laser enrichment device was successful in stimulating broiler physical activity and feeding, and did not negatively impact walking ability.

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This article is published as Meyer, Meaghan M., Anna K. Johnson, and Elizabeth A. Bobeck. "A novel environmental enrichment device increased physical activity and walking distance in broilers." Poultry science (2019). doi: 10.3382/ps/pez581.

Keywords
broiler, environmental enrichment, well-being, lameness, behavior
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