Do broilers benefit from elevated structures?

Commercial broiler chickens are usually kept in barren housing environments which contain only the most necessary equipment such as feeder and drinker lines and littered floor. Providing elevated structures in modern broiler husbandry can lead to certain advantages such as reduction of the stocking density, drying of the litter, improvement in leg health and support of speciesspecific behaviour (perching, exploration, etc.). In order to enrich the housing environment of broilers with elevated structures without compromising the health and welfare, the shape, height and design of these elements must be adapted to the age and physical abilities of the broilers.

In three successive experiments, three breeds differing in growth rate were investigated to determine whether and which shape of elevated structure the chickens use. In addition, the utilization of elevated structures on animal welfare was investigated. Broiler chickens are highly motivated to use elevated platforms from the first week of life onwards, depending on growth rate. Low levels were preferred by fast growing and high levels by slow growing broiler chickens. Elevated structures can increase activity and improve walking ability. Thus, elevated structures enhance the natural behaviour of walking and resting and thus, positively influence animal welfare.



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