The influence of different types of environmental enrichment on the performance and welfare of broiler chickens and the possibilities of real-time monitoring via a farmer-assistant system
The aim of this study is to evaluate the influence of environmental enrichment on the growth performance, litter and/or air quality as well as animal welfare indicators of broilers. Control groups (CG) and trial groups (TG) were housed under identical conditions during six fattening runs, with the TG having three types of environmental enrichment and a Farmer-Assistant System (FAS). A representative number of 50 birds were weighed and litter samples were taken at d 14, 21 and 28. Additionally, the same broilers were examined for foot pad dermatitis (FPD) on those days. The average bodyweight of the birds in the CG was significantly lower (1671 g) only at d 28 compared to TG (1704 g); at d 14, d 21 and d 33 at the slaughterhouse, no significant differences were observed. The dry matter content in the litter did not significantly differ between CG and TG. Birds housed in CG had significantly higher FPD scores at d 14 (1.24) and d 21 (2.19) compared to those housed in TG (0.73 and 1.52, respectively). No effects on air quality parameters, such as CO2 and NH3, were seen between the groups. Overall, our study shows no negative influences of environmental enrichment on growth performance, litter and air quality.