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ASSURANCE & ANIMAL WELFARE

Poultry Unit Environmental Enrichment Options- Breeder & Broilers

Environmental enrichment is key in ensuring birds express their normal behaviour for better performance and bird welfare. The assurance and animal welfare team analysed different enrichment options and came up with the 3 listed below as the best options based on availability, affordability, and effectiveness. These enrichment devices will be rolled out as soon as possible across our broiler and breeder operations.

A. Perches/bales or cartoons of wood shavings or straws/hay

Offering broiler chickens elevated structures has been suggested to result in positive physical effects such as a reduction of leg problems, the support of bone strengthening by higher activity, or better health of footpads through drying. In the case of layer and breeder chickens, offering elevated structures during the rearing phase can prepare them for using elevated structures and perches in the layer housing. If not properly designed however, perches can result in breast blisters and thus may negatively affect the welfare of broiler chickens.

Perch locations should be changed every 2 weeks as birds get bored easily.

Broilers

Can use pallets from hatchery as meat birds are not so keen on using perches. Ensure between 10cm-20cm from the ground. The photo below shows the use of wooden pallet at Kakuzi Broiler farm

Pros: - easily available- hatchery supply

Cons: - hard to disinfect for use in between cycles. Faecal droppings and other forms of contaminants would stay in the junctions, crevices and cracks and be very hard to disinfect between cycles. Accumulation of bacteria over cycles could lead to cellulitis.

Solution:

  1. Do not recycle between cycles. Sustainability?
  2. Thorough disinfection in between cycles.
  3. Use of cartons of wood shavings or straw;

Use of bales of straw or wood shavings serves as perches and allows the chicken to slowly pick them up through scratching, pecking etc.  For biosecurity reasons, the bale of wood shavings would be better.

Cartoons filled with wood shavings let birds express themselves freely through perching, scratching and bathing. These cartons can have a height of between 10-20cm to allow different birds to perch. These cartons would degrade and be disposed off with the litter at the end of the cycle.

Way forward: - Employ use of pallets mixed with bales of wood shavings (50/50). 1000 birds per 2 pallets/bales

Breeders:

Metal will get too cold or too hot depending on the weather. In addition, they are too also slippery and might lead to falls.

Trials have also shown that this material leads to more cases of bumble foot and keel bone issues due to pressure.

Wood would have been the best material to use but as earlier mentioned, can lead to contamination. In addition, the crevices can be a breeding ground for red mites.

Way forward: - Fabricate perches using plastic pipes for rungs with metal stands while using the listed dimensions: -

  1. Use hot rods to create grooves on the plastic rungs to avoid the otherwise slippery surfaces
  2. From the ground, the rails/rungs should be at 10cm, 30cm, 50cm with 75cm being the highest rail (as shown below). They should never be higher than 100cm to avoid falls that can cause injuries
  3. Space the rungs 30-45cm (vertically and horizontally as shown below) from each other so birds can hop from one rung to the next. This also prevents faecal droppings from the upper rails falling on the birds beneath. Rungs should be close enough together for hens to jump easily between them but far enough apart that a falling hen is unlikely to hit one the way down.
  4. At least 2 meters of perches for 1,000 birds are required. calculate how many perches are needed per unit using this.
  5. Recommended rung diameter is 4-5cm. As birds love curling their toes around the edges, rounding the edges can be helpful
  6. Keep the perches at least 45cm from the wall
  7. The design should be a collapsible ‘A’ shape (through use of hinges and chains/cords as shown in the illustration below and taken out to be disinfected regularly.

 

B. Modified dust bins/pails/modified box huts

Hollowed Pails or dustbins are laid on their sides in poultry units. Chickens hide inside for calm and to feel safe. These can be placed in different areas of the unit without compromising spacing.

 

C. Pecking objects and toys

Provides an effective chicken pecking block target—redirects aggressive pecking behaviour to prevent poultry cannibalism. Can be used in conjunction with beak trimming or as a tool to aid natural beak conditioning where trimming is not employed

Easiest objects to install in a poultry unit are balls and baby toys. In addition to providing a pecking surface, they entertain the birds. Red and blue balls are colourful hence stimulate birds’ curiosity. The balls can be dropped in the litter or hanged from the roof. Other options are colourful hanging ropes.

1 pecking object per 500 birds should suffice

 

(Photo by World Animal Protection)

Weekly cleaning and disinfection of plastic-based enrichment devices involving cleaning with water and soap, let dry, disinfect, let dry then place them back in the poultry units. To minimise the time required to dry, foam disinfection is recommended to normal wet disinfection.