Environmental enrichment for poultry from Fiona French on Vimeo.

Sian Phillips, Reinhard Gupter, Luisa Ruge and Admela Jukan presenting concepts for poultry enrichment.

Something that adapts itself so might be different, easier, faster, random on different days to avoid habituation. Poultry farms already high tech - powerful system for environmental monitoring in place, therefore minimal cost to enhance with enrichment. ISSUES - current enrichment not at level of individual bird, only group - how to consider individual welfare, rest/active etc ? Can monitor usage eg. with motion sensor; but individual birds not tagged or ringed - short life expectancy, not worth the effort.

  • ROPE CONCEPTS - Edible rope - eg. processed corn fibre; Hang corn cobs; Rope made from recycled cotton strips with seeds stuck to material, so birds peck and food falls out; Hang rope with bamboo (hollow) beads; Tube with access points, rope inside, low so many can access at different parts, one pecks and another part of rope moves; Different pecking tube whereby one pecks and another part extrudes. IN GENERAL - Have many hanging devices (not on ground)
  • Cork ball / compressed food to roll around; Also, use dog kong (weighted) with food to spill
  • SOUND = acoustic stimulation, experiment to peck different textures, make different noises
  • Visual projections - changing from light to dark in different places to encourage movement (towards light). There is a natural light cycle, so spots of light need to move - glitter balls… Careful - shadow overhead induce fear
  • GAME = dish with lights - have to peck correct bit; Holes and buttons - peck to dispense food

Providing appropriate environmental enrichment items for poultry (meat chickens, laying hens and turkeys) encourages bird activity and enables bird's to perform some of their normal behaviours, such as perching and investigating, improving bird health and welfare. For example, encouraging greater bird activity for meat chickens has been shown to promote improved leg health, and providing appropriate pecking objects can help minimise injurious feather pecking in laying hen and turkey flocks.

Rope is considered to be a good form of enrichment for poultry (meat chickens, laying hens and turkeys), and has been shown to be particularly beneficial in helping minimise injurious feather pecking. It has also been shown to have positive effects on the walking ability of meat chickens. However, rope can cause injury to bird's from ingestion or from bird's becoming tangled in it, some farmers are therefore reluctant to provide their bird's with rope. There are some management techniques that can help mitigate the risks of rope, for example tying knots at both ends to prevent the entire rope from fraying. We are aware that some farmers concerned with providing rope have instead provided rope in plastic bottles or have provided chain instead, however these alternatives do not necessarily perform the same function as rope.

Design an alternative enrichment item to rope for meat chickens, turkeys and laying hens, that is safe for birds to use, cheap, replenishable, and has similar properties to rope i.e. hanging, destructible, manipulable (i.e. swings), and isn’t a biosecurity risk. An additional challenge is to design the enrichment to be used by as many bird's as possible, whilst continuing to ensure it is manageable to install and maintain, and remains low cost.

Other forms of destructible pecking enrichment objects that may already be provided to poultry include, straw bales, suspended haynets filled with straw, hay, alfalfa blocks, egg trays or other suitable material, pecking blocks, brassicas (e.g. cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts, broccoli) and hanging wooden blocks. We are also aware that some farmers add items to rope, such as cattle ear tags.