A novel environmental enrichment device improved broiler performance without sacrificing bird physiological or environmental quality measures
Modern commercial broilers have been genetically selected for fast growth and heavy breast muscling, contributing to a top-heavy phenotype and increased leg lameness. A quick-growing phenotype coupled with poor leg health fosters inactivity. The objective of this study was to stimulate broiler movement using novel environmental enrichment and determine the impact of movement on production, leg health, and environmental parameters. A total of 1,200 Ross 308 broilers were housed in 40 pens with 30 birds/pen for 6 wk in 2 separate rooms (laser enrichment or control). Each enrichment device was mounted above 2 adjoining pens, projected 2 independent, randomly moving laser beams at the floor to stimulate innate predatory behavior, and was active 4 times daily in 4-min periods. Performance outcomes were calculated by pen and averaged per bird for each performance period and overall days 0 to 42. A total of 70 randomly selected focal birds were examined for breast blisters and footpad dermatitis each week and euthanized on day 42 for tibia quality measures. Air quality and litter moisture were sampled by week. Laser-enriched pens had greater average bird feed intake in starter (P < 0.001), grower (P = 0.004), finisher periods (P = 0.004), and overall days 0 to 42 (0.19 kg/bird; P = 0.0003). Average bird weight gain was also increased in enriched pens in each performance period: starter (P = 0.043), grower (P = 0.001), finisher (P < 0.001), and overall days 0 to 42 (0.24 kg/bird; P < 0.001). Enriched pens had improved feed conversion ratio (FCR) vs. control with a decrease of 3 FCR points in the grower (P = 0.031), 18 points in the finisher (P < 0.001), and 7 points overall (P < 0.001). Enriched pens had higher ADG during starter (P = 0.048), finisher (P < 0.001), and overall (5.7 g/bird/d; P < 0.001). No differences were found in breast blister, footpad dermatitis, tibia, air, or litter quality measures (P > 0.05). In summary, a novel enrichment device based on bird visual feeding and predatory instincts positively affected performance through decreased FCR and increased ADG without sacrificing external animal-based measures, tibia quality, or air or litter quality.
This is a manuscript of an article published as Meyer, M. M., A. K. Johnson, and E. A. Bobeck. "A novel environmental enrichment device improved broiler performance without sacrificing bird physiological or environmental quality measures." Poultry science (2019). doi: 10.3382/ps/pez417. Posted with permission.