Vasdal, G., Gebhardt-Henrich, S. G., Tahamtani, F. et al. 2022. Perch use in commercial broiler breeders – Preference for perch material and effect of age. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 253, 105680.

Unlike for laying hens in most European countries, few broiler breeders have access to perches, and there is a need for more knowledge on perching behavior in broiler breeders. The aim of this study was to investigate the overall use of perches by broiler breeders throughout the production period and to investigate preferences for different perch materials in a commercial setting. Four breeder flocks (Ross 308, n = 2, Ranger Gold, n = 1, Hubbard JA 757, n = 1) were each given five different perches. Four of the perches (each 6 m long) were placed on the elevated slats; steel round, steel square, plastic and wooden perch, while the three Siesta perches (plastic, 15 cm high) were placed in the litter area. From week 30, one of the Siesta perches (3 m long) was placed on the elevated slats. Perch use was recorded by counting number of birds on the perches during the last hour before the light went off, once in week 20, 25, 30, 40, 45 and 50. Footpad dermatitis were scored at end of lay in 100 random hens across the house. Overall, perching behavior was constant with age, and there were no significant differences between the flocks with regards to perch use (birds/m perch). At 20 weeks of age, the square steel perches were most used (0.90 birds/m perch) and the wooden perches were the least used (0.41 birds/m perch) (P = 0.09). From week 30, more birds were perching on the Siesta perches on the slats (1.6 birds/m perch) compared to all other types of perches (P < 0.003). There was no relationship between body weight and footpad score (P > 0.05). The average perch use in the present study was only 0.44 birds/m perch which is a capacity utilization of less than 10 %. The Siesta perch on the elevated slats was the most popular perch, possibly due to its height. In conclusion, broiler breeders use perches, but perch type and placement of the perches must be considered carefully.