Forslind, S., Blokhuis, H. J., Riber, A. B. 2021. Disturbance of resting behaviour of broilers under different environmental conditions. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 242, 105425.
Resting behaviours make up a large part of the daily time budget of broilers. However, in intensive broiler production systems disruptions of resting behaviours occur, where resting individuals get disturbed by active individuals. Such interruptions of resting behaviour may negatively affect the welfare of the birds but also disturb important functions of sleep related for instance to restoration and growth. This study investigated if a lower stocking density or the provision of separate resting places in the form of elevated platforms would result in less disruption of resting patterns of fast-growing broilers. Three different treatments were used, one with an elevated platform, one with lowered stocking density and a control setting. A randomized block design was used, consisting of six blocks, giving six to eight replicates of each treatment. Depending on treatment, 422-497 broilers (Ross 308) were kept per pen. Data on duration of resting bouts, occurrence of disturbances and position in pen during resting were collected on days 20 and 34 of age. An overall effect of treatment x position was found on duration of resting bouts both during day (P < 0.01) and night (P < 0.001). When resting on platforms the duration of resting bouts during daytime was longer compared to when birds were resting in open areas in the control groups (P = 0.04). During night the duration of resting bouts on platforms was longer compared to duration of resting bouts at all other locations in all treatments. In addition, resting position also had an overall effect on proportion of disturbances during day (P = 0.0018) and night (P = 0.0225). Resting on platforms reduced the number of physical disturbances of resting chickens compared to open areas in the control group both during day (P adj < 0.001) and night (P adj = 0.01). Generally, the level of disturbances was high in all treatments, suggesting that birds experience disrupted rest. As rest and sleep are vital needs, it is a welfare concern that chickens negatively affect other individuals’ resting behaviour. A separate resting place appears to reduce disturbances to some extent and thus potentially increases the welfare of broiler chickens. However, provision of platforms is not enough to prevent frequent disturbances of resting and it is concluded that additional changes in housing conditions of broiler chickens are needed to improve their rest and sleep.