Effects of barrier perches and stocking density on the behavior, space use, and leg health of the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus)
Ventura, Beth Ann
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The objective of this study was to discern whether providing enrichment in the form of barrier perches across a range of densities might improve leg and foot health and promote behavioral expression and more even use of space in broilers. To investigate this, 2,088 day-old broiler chicks were randomly assigned to one of three barrier treatments at one of three densities. Effects on behavior, space use, foot and hock health, tibia fluctuating asymmetry, fear and production were subsequently assessed. Higher densities appeared to compromise broiler welfare, seen by increased tibia length asymmetry, poorer foot and hock health, suppression of activity, increased disturbances, and decreased use of space. Conversely, barrier perches - particularly simple barriers - appeared to improve footpad quality, promote increased perching and activity, decrease aggression and disturbances, and improve use of the central pen space, all without negatively impacting production traits.