Broiler Chicks’ Motivation for Different Wood Beddings and Amounts of Soiling
Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road E., Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
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Received: 15 May 2020 / Revised: 10 June 2020 / Accepted: 12 June 2020 / Published: 16 June 2020
Many animals move excreta—or feces—away from resting areas to avoid attracting predators and spreading disease. However, today’s farms raise broiler (meat) chickens in large barns with stocking densities that prevent the birds from segregating their excreta. Moreover, whether or not chickens would prefer to avoid their excreta is unknown. Understanding what litter conditions chickens prefer can help inform farming practices. Therefore, this experiment aimed to assess chicks’ motivation to access unsoiled bedding or soiled litter. We used six pens of six to seven broiler chicks—each pen divided into two compartments by a barrier containing two one-way push-doors. The ‘home’ compartment contained soiled wood shavings, while the ‘treatment’ (T) compartment contained either aspen wood shavings, pine and spruce wood shavings, soiled pine and spruce wood shavings, ammonia reductant treated soiled pine and spruce wood shavings, or a feed treatment as a gold standard. To determine the chicks’ motivation to access the resources, the door leading into T weighed 0% (lifted), 10%, 20%, or 30% of the chicks’ body weight. The combination of time spent in T, number of visits to T, and average maximum weight pushed to access T were used to measure motivation. Chicks showed equal motivation for all substrates and preferred feed over all substrates. However, future experiments must explore chicks’ preference and motivation over the long-term in commercial conditions.