For meat chickens to experience good welfare, it’s important that their environment is stimulating and enriching, and allows them to exhibit their natural behaviours. These behaviours include perching, dust bathing, foraging, ground scratching, and stretching and flapping their wings.
Having access to environments that allow meat chickens to display natural behaviours has a positive effect on their health and welfare by encouraging physical activity and improving their health.
What does environmental enrichment look like?
There are many different ways that environmental enrichment can be incorporated into meat chicken housing systems.
Environmental enrichment can include:
- Straw bales, that can be used as foraging material and resting places and reduce lameness and leg disorders
- Organic and non-organic materials such as pecking blocks and balls
- Food such as broccoli or cabbage for pecking
- Perches and platforms to allow perching behaviour and improve leg health
It’s important that the use of enrichment items is monitored to ensure that birds have not lost interest in the items, and that there are enough options available to cater for the number of birds housed in each system. Enrichment items should be varied, and changed regularly to help maintain the interest of birds.
Further research is needed to determine the most effective types, quantities, and how often enrichment needs to be changed for meat chickens.