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Effects of qualitative feed restriction in broiler breeder pullets on behaviour in the home environment

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Conventional broiler breeders are severely feed restricted during the rearing period, resulting in an unfulfilled behavioural need for performing feeding behaviour and likely in a sensation of hunger. As a response to the feed restriction, behavioural changes have been observed, including increased foraging and drinking and reduced resting behaviour. This study aimed to investigate effects of four dietary treatments, differing in fibre types and content, on behaviour of broiler breeder females during rearing. The dietary treatments were: 1) standard feed (Control), 2) standard feed diluted with insoluble fibres (Insoluble), 3) standard feed diluted with both insoluble and soluble fibres (Mixed) and 4) standard feed supplemented with maize silage (Roughage). The amount of the different diets allocated was adjusted for the birds within different treatments to achieve the growth rate recommended under commercial conditions. In total, 1200 female breeder chicks of the genotype Ross 308 were housed in 24 pens from day-old to 19 weeks of age, six pens of 50 birds per treatment. Birds were observed every second week during three different periods of the day relative to feeding time: 1 h before, 1 h after and 5 h after. During each period, the observer noted the behaviour of focal birds (n = 6/pen) for 2 min. Body weight was monitored weekly. For each behaviour the likelihood of whether it was performed and the duration (only including those observation periods where the behaviour was performed) during the observation periods were analysed. Compared to the Control birds, Mixed birds were less likely to forage (P = 0.001) and walk (P < 0.008) but more likely to drink (in weeks 8 and 10 only, P < 0.0001). The birds showed more anticipatory behaviour in terms of standing and walking in the hour before feeding (P < 0.002). There was an effect of the interaction between treatment and age on body weight where all treatments differed from each other (P < 0.0009). Mixed birds had the least steep growth curve. In conclusion, the fibre-rich dietary treatments had limited effects on behaviour of broiler breeders compared to the standard feed. Only the Mixed treatment showed some effects, but the cause of these behavioural changes remains to be clarified. However, the lower growth rate of Mixed birds may indicate that this diet had an unintentional negative impact on animal welfare.

TidsskriftApplied Animal Behaviour Science
StatusUdgivet - feb. 2021

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
We thank senior researcher Leslie Foldager for support during the statistical analyses. We are grateful to Klára Ničová, Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague, Czech Republic, for assisting with data collection and data management during her PhD internship. We also thank Dr. Laura Dixon, Scottish Rural College, for valuable feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. The research described in this paper has been commissioned and funded by the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark as part of the “Contract between Aarhus University and Ministry of Environment and Food for the provision of research-based policy advice at Aarhus University, 2017-2020”.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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