The Effect of Stocking Density on the Welfare and Behaviour of Broiler Chickens Reared Commercially
Abstract:An experiment was conducted to compare the effect of two levels of house stocking density (34kg m-2 and 40kg m-2) on broiler welfare and behaviour. The trial monitored 121 900 birds housed in eight flocks under commercial conditions and used a range of behavioural and productivity measures to assess welfare.
At the higher stocking density: i) the daily mortality was greater for part of the rearing period; ii) the incidence of leg problems, contact dermatitis and carcase bruising increased; iii) the birds' resting behaviour was increasingly disturbed; iv) locomotion and ground pecking decreased; and v) lying and preening patterns were affected, probably due to increased disruption by other birds.
Aspects of welfare were adversely affected at the higher stocking density. Further research is required to determine how stocking density affects welfare under different commercial conditions.