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Animals 2017, 7(7), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani7070054

Ranging Behaviour of Commercial Free-Range Broiler Chickens 1: Factors Related to Flock Variability

1
Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
2
Poultry Research Foundation, School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Camden, NSW 2570, Australia
3
Research Centre for Proper Housing, Poultry and Rabbits (ZTHZ), Division of Animal Welfare, University of Bern, Zollikofen, CH-3052, Switzerland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 4 June 2017 / Revised: 14 July 2017 / Accepted: 16 July 2017 / Published: 20 July 2017
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Abstract

Little is known about the ranging behaviour of chickens. Understanding ranging behaviour is required to improve management and shed and range design to ensure optimal ranging opportunities. Using Radio Frequency Identification technology, we tracked 300 individual broiler chickens in each of four mixed sex ROSS 308 flocks on one commercial farm across two seasons. Ranging behaviour was tracked from the first day of range access (21 days of age) until 35 days of age in winter and 44 days of age in summer. Range use was higher than previously reported from scan sampling studies. More chickens accessed the range in summer (81%) than winter (32%; p < 0.05). On average, daily frequency and duration of range use was greater in summer flocks (4.4 ± 0.1 visits for a total of 26.3 ± 0.8 min/day) than winter flocks (3.2 ± 0.2 visits for a total of 7.9 ± 1.0 min/day). Seasonal differences were only marginally explained by weather conditions and may reflect the reduction in range exposure between seasons (number of days, hours per day, and time of day). Specific times of the day (p < 0.01) and pop-holes were favoured (p < 0.05). We provide evidence of relationships between ranging and external factors that may explain ranging preferences. View Full-Text
Keywords: poultry; pasture; outdoor; range; meat chicken; welfare; Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) poultry; pasture; outdoor; range; meat chicken; welfare; Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Taylor, P.S.; Hemsworth, P.H.; Groves, P.J.; Gebhardt-Henrich, S.G.; Rault, J.-L. Ranging Behaviour of Commercial Free-Range Broiler Chickens 1: Factors Related to Flock Variability. Animals 2017, 7, 54.

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