Wood, B., Rufener, C., Makagon, M. M. et al. 2021. The utility of scatter feeding as enrichment: Do broiler chickens engage with scatter–fed items? Animals 11(12), 3478.
In recent years, welfare certification companies have encouraged the use of scatter feeding as enrichment material, though there is little scientific evidence to support a scatter feeding program. This study aimed to understand the impact of scatter feeding on the foraging behavior of broilers. One hundred eighty Ross 308 chicks were allocated into six treatment groups (six replicates/treatment). Broilers were scatter fed dried mealworms, whole wheat, shredded cabbage, alfalfa pellets, wood shavings, or no scatter feeding, respectively. Enrichment was provided on the first three days of each week. Total foraging, active foraging, and feeding were observed for one-hour periods immediately after scattering, 2 h later, and 6 h later. In all groups, broilers increased both total (p = 0.001) and active (p = 0.001) foraging, though this was most pronounced in the dried mealworm group. Across all groups, active foraging decreased with age (p = 0.001). The mealworm group also showed a corresponding decrease in feeding during hour one compared to the later hours (p = 0.001). These results did not provide evidence that scatter feeding encourages foraging behavior, except for a short-term effect of a high value feed item. This finding suggests that the item scattered and the delivery method should be studied further.