An evaluation of the uses of different environmental enrichments on a broiler farm with the help of real-time monitoring via a farmer-assistant system
Modern broilers are usually raised in barren environments in large enclosed halls. Various environmental enrichment elements such as perches, elevated platforms, and similar structures were proposed for these barns with the aim of improving the welfare and well-being of the birds. This study compares and evaluates three different types of environmental enrichment. In 2 identical barns, 8100 Ross 308 broilers were housed divided between a control group (CG) and a trial group (TG). In the TG, three types of environmental enrichment (perches, elevated platforms, and a combined structure) were used. A real-time monitoring device (FAS = farmer-assistance system) suspended from the ceiling was used in combination with single photographs to count the number of birds on the enrichment elements. In addition, the body weights of individual birds and their foot pad dermatitis (FPD) scores were collected at days 14, 21 and 28 in both barns. No differences in these parameters were seen between TG and CG. Birds showed highest preference for the elevated platforms (average 31.93 kg/m2), followed by the combined structure (average 21.36 kg/m2) and the perches (0.35 kg/m2). Overall, this study shows that Ross 308 broiler birds significantly prefer elevated platforms over combined structures or simple perches.