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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Fayetteville, Arkansas » Poultry Production and Product Safety Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320743

Research Project: Alternative Intervention and Control Strategies for Foodborne Pathogens in Poultry and Poultry Products

Location: Poultry Production and Product Safety Research

Title: Effect of outdoor structural enrichments on the performance, use of range area, and behavior of organic meat chickens

Author
item Fanatico, A - Appalachian State University
item Mench, J - University Of California
item Archer, G - University Of California
item Liang, Y - University Of Arkansas
item Brewer-gunsailus, V - University Of Arkansas
item Owens-hanning, C - University Of Arkansas
item Donoghue, Ann - Annie

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/8/2016
Publication Date: 8/15/2016
Citation: Fanatico, A.C., Mench, J.A., Archer, G.S., Liang, Y., Brewer-Gunsailus, V.B., Owens-Hanning, C.M., Donoghue, A.M. 2016. Effect of outdoor structural enrichments on the performance, use of range area, and behavior of organic meat chickens. Poultry Science. 95:1980-1988. https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew196.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3382/ps/pew196

Interpretive Summary: Chickens provided with outdoor access often do not fully use the range. Natural cover and structures (e.g. trees) can provide shelter and increase range use, but may not be practical for use in all free-range operations. A study was conducted to determine whether constructed enrichments that simulate natural structures increase range use and impact the behavior of meat chickens. Slow-growing Delaware chickens were raised in floor pens in a naturally-ventilated house, with a pophole in each pen that allowed daily access to a vegetation-covered outdoor area. Feed and water were provided inside and outside. Birds were randomly assigned to one of two treatments: No range enrichment (control; NON) or Enrichment (ENR), which had roosts made of plastic pipe or screened shelters placed 7.6 m and 22.9 m from the house and overhead shade panels at 15.2 m. There were 4 replications. The numbers of birds inside and in 4 quadrants of the range were counted every 7 min 3 times daily (0900 h, 1300 h, and 1600 h) for 3 consecutive d when the birds were 7 and 10 wk of age; the numbers of birds performing various behaviors were also counted. On average, only 12.9% of birds used the range at any given time. The behavior of the birds was strongly affected by location (Inside vs. Outside), with birds mainly foraging and walking while Outside and feeding, standing and sitting while Inside. Time of day impacted the number of birds that ranged, with fewest birds outside during mid-day. Overall, birds using the range were most often (71%) observed in the quadrant nearest the house (0 – 7.6 m). However, in the ENR treatment, more birds (13%) were observed in the furthest two quadrants (15.2 – 30.5 m from the house) than in the NON treatment (6%). This indicates that adding constructed enrichments to the range encouraged meat chickens to use it more fully.

Technical Abstract: Chickens provided with outdoor access often do not fully use the range. Natural cover and structures and structures (e.g. trees) can provide shelter and increase range use, but may not be practical for use in all free-range operations. A study was conducted to determine whether constructed enrichments that simulate natural structures increase range use and impact the behavior of meat chickens. Slow-growing Delaware chickens were raised in floor pens (17 birds/pen) in a naturally-ventilated house, with a pophole in each pen that allowed daily access to a vegetation-covered outdoor area (3.1 x 30.5 m). Feed and water were provided inside and outside. Birds were randomly assigned to one of two treatments: No range enrichment (control; NON) or Enrichment (ENR), which had roosts made of plastic pipe or screened shelters placed 7.6 m and 22.9 m from the house and overhead shade panels at 15.2 m. There were 4 replications. The numbers of birds inside and in 4 quadrants of the range were counted every 7 min 3 times daily (0900 h, 1300 h, and 1600 h) for 3 consecutive d when the birds were 7 and 10 wk of age; the numbers of birds performing various behaviors were also counted. On average, only 12.9% of birds used the range at any given time. The behavior of the birds was strongly affected by location (Inside vs. Outside), with birds mainly foraging and walking while Outside and feeding, standing and sitting while Inside. Time of day impacted the number of birds that ranged, with fewest birds outside during mid-day. Overall, birds using the range were most often (71%) observed in the quadrant nearest the house (0 – 7.6 m). However, in the ENR treatment, more birds (13%) were observed in the furthest two quadrants (15.2 – 30.5 m from the house) than in the NON treatment (6%). This indicates that adding constructed enrichments to the range encouraged meat chickens to use it more fully.