Jones, P., Tahamtani, F., Pedersen, I. et al. 2020. The productivity and financial impacts of eight types of environmental enrichment for broiler chickens. Animals 10(3), 378.
Reduced mobility in broilers can contribute to leg health problems. Environmental enrichment has been suggested as one approach to combat this through stimulating increased physical activity. Past studies have tested the effect of environmental enrichments on bird behaviour, health and welfare, but few have estimated their financial impacts. This study tested the impact of eight types of environmental enrichment on enterprise net margin, accounting for direct intervention costs plus indirect effects via changes to bird mortality, weight, feed intake, feed conversion ratio, and foot pad dermatitis. The trial used 58 pens each containing approximately 500 broilers (Ross 308) at a stocking density of 40 kg/m2. The environmental enrichments were: roughage, vertical panels, straw bales, elevated platforms (5 and 30 cm), increased distances between feed and water (7 and 3.5 m) and stocking density reduced to 34 kg/m2, plus a control group. Mortality was recorded daily and feed intake and weight weekly. Footpad dermatitis was assessed on day 35. Only one intervention improved financial performance (3.5 m between feed and water) above the control, suggesting that most environmental enrichment would have a negative financial impact due to the additional intervention costs, unless consumers were willing to pay a price premium.