Environmental enrichment is crucial to ensure that birds express their normal behaviour for better welfare and performance. To achieve this, our assurance and animal welfare team have analysed different enrichment options and recommended the following three, based on availability, affordability, and effectiveness. They will be rolled out as soon as possible across our broiler and breeder operations:
Kenchic Environment Enrichment Guidelines
a.) Perches/bales or cartons of wood shavings or straws/hay
Offering broiler chickens elevated structures results in the following benefits:
• reduction of leg problems
• support of bone strengthening through more exercise
• better health of footpads through drying
In the case of layer and breeder chickens, the use of these structures during the rearing phase can prepare them for using perches in the layer housing. However, they need to be properly designed to avoid breast blisters. Perch locations should also be changed every two weeks as birds get bored easily.
Experience has taught us to fabricate perches using plastic pipes for rungs with metal stands (metal gets too cold or hot, depending on the weather, while wood can lead to contamination). From the ground, the rails/rungs should be at 10cm, 30cm, 50cm with 75cm being the highest rail (as shown below). They should never be higher than 100 cm, so that falls causing injuries can be avoided.
The rungs should be spaced 30-45 cm apart (vertically and horizontally, as shown below) so that birds can hop from one rung to the next. This also prevents fecal droppings from the upper rails falling on the birds beneath. Rungs should be close enough together for hens to jump easily from one to another.
Way forward: – Fabricate perches using plastic pipes for rungs with metal stands while using the listed dimensions: –
- Use hot rods to create grooves on the plastic rungs to avoid the otherwise slippery surfaces
- From the ground, the rails/rungs should be at 10cm, 30cm, 50cm with 75cm being the highest rail (as shown below). They should never be higher than 100cm to avoid falls that can cause injuries
- Space the rungs 30-45cm (vertically and horizontally as shown below) from each other so birds can hop from one rung to the next. This also prevents fecal droppings from the upper rails falling on the birds beneath. Rungs should be close enough together for hens to jump easily
Modified dustbins, pails and box huts can be laid on their sides in poultry units. Chickens hide inside for calm and to feel safe. These can be placed in different areas of the unit without compromising spacing.
c.) Pecking objects and toys
At the same time, pecking objects and toys redirect aggressive pecking behavior to prevent poultry cannibalism. One pecking object for each 500 birds should suffice. They can be used in conjunction with beak trimming or as a tool to aid natural beak conditioning where trimming is not employed.
The easiest objects to install in a poultry unit are balls and baby toys. In addition to providing a pecking surface, they entertain the birds. Red and blue balls are colorful, stimulating the birds’ curiosity. The balls can be dropped in the litter or hanged from the roof. Other options are colorful hanging ropes.
Weekly cleaning and disinfection of plastic-based enrichment devices should be done with water, soap and disinfectant. They should be allowed to dry before being placed back in the poultry units. Foam disinfectant rather than the normal wet disinfectant allows drying to take place more quickly.