Preferences of Growing Fowls for Different Light Intensities in Relation to Age, Strain And Behaviour
Abstract:The preferences of broiler and layer strains of fowl for four different intensities of incandescent luminaire (6, 20, 60 and 200 lux; Osram, 60W, pearl) were tested at 2 and 6 weeks of age. With each strain, four replicates of 12 birds were each allowed to move freely between four compartments illuminated continuously at the different intensities for 6 days. The distribution of light intensities among the compartments was changed daily. After 2 days of conditioning, the birds' location and behaviour were recorded once every 15min over 23h on each of the remaining 4 days. The other hour was devoted to changing light intensities and refilling the feeders and drinkers. Six, mutually exclusive behaviours were defined: resting, perching, feeding, drinking, litter-directed activity and locomotion.
With both strains, most time was spent in the brightest (200 lux) environment at 2 weeks of age, hut in the dimmest (6 lux) at 6 weeks. This apparent change in preference was associated only with the two behaviours which took up most time, resting and perching, whereas the highest intensity was consistently preferred for all other behaviours. Older birds thus preferred to be in dim light when they were relatively inactive.
The finding that older birds prefer to spend much of their time in a light environment of < 10 lux intensity, depending on behaviour, is contrary to current recommendations that minimum light intensities for broilers and laying hens should be increased to as much as 20 lux. Some variation in the spatial or temporal distribution of ambient light intensity, to provide both dimly (< 10 lux) and brightly (eg > 50 lux) lit environments, might benefit the welfare of older poultry, although further work is needed to establish their optimal light environment.