Research uncovers what increases chicken wellbeing

Oct 04, 2011

Researchers from the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences have concluded that the wellbeing of barn chickens is increased if they have activity objects, perches and other stimulation.

Around 75 per cent of barn reared for UK households are in which don't have natural daylight or activity objects such as pecking blocks .

The study, one of the first of its kind in the UK , looked at the behaviour of birds to find out how content they really were in different conditions.

The aim of the research, funded by Morrisons, was to find out which measures made a genuine difference to the welfare of chickens.

A total of 120,000 birds were observed from birth to determine whether the chickens appeared to be positively occupied, bored, calm, depressed, tense or content, among other measures.

The study found that the chickens were more confident and active in an enriched environment and confirmed that the birds have a greater wellbeing with activity objects, perches and daylight.

Morrisons has therefore decided to move all its standard fresh chickens to the enriched regime and all their chicken will be able to live in barns containing windows, perches, straw bales and pecker blocks - allowing the chickens to express their natural behaviour.

Two researchers spent a total of more than 100 hours over the course of a month watching birds in four houses and measuring their wellbeing based on a number of different indicators.

Dr Claire Weeks, Senior Research Fellow in at the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences, said: "Despite the high levels of public interest in chicken welfare, to date there has been relatively little research into the impact that can have on their behaviour.

"This study, which analysed the behaviour of over 120,000 birds, has shown it does make a positive difference. By acting on the findings Morrisons is helping drive up welfare standards for a substantial section of the British chicken flock."    

Louise Welsh, Agriculture Manager at Morrisons, said: "We are aware that many customers are concerned about the conditions that chickens live in but can't afford to buy free range or even organic meat. That's why we have made the move to ensure that all of our standard chickens will enjoy higher welfare living conditions.

"Our standard range accounts for over 90 per cent of all Morrisons' sales of chicken.  That means over a million chickens a week will now be raised in better conditions, proven to have a positive impact on their ."

Mia Fernyhough, UK Food Business Manager at Compassion in World Farming, said: “It is great to see that Morrisons is considering the welfare of its meat chickens and taking the first steps to improve their living conditions.

“Compassion in World Farming works closely with many organisations within the food industry, including the supermarkets, encouraging progress and creating a better future for chickens and other farm animals. We will continue to work with Morrisons to help further the welfare of the animals used in their meat and dairy produce.”

David Gibson, Director of Agriculture, Moy Park, said: “All chickens produced for Morrisons are grown in sheds with windows, allowing natural light into the houses. The study reinforces what we have seen in our farms - that this source of natural light has a very positive effect on the chickens – making them more active.

“As pointed to in the research study, we also enrich the chicken houses, which further enhances the environment for the birds and allows them to express their natural behaviour.”

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The foundations of empathy are found in the chicken

Mar 09, 2011

( -- A study has gained new insight into the minds of domestic hens, discovering, for the first time, that domestic hens show a clear physiological and behavioural response when their chicks are ...

Illinois counting its chickens

Jul 14, 2006

A research scientist in Illinois wants to bring the state's prairie chicken population back to the level it was when Abraham Lincoln was alive.

Free-range chickens are more prone to disease

Jan 15, 2009

Chickens kept in litter-based housing systems, including free-range chickens, are more prone to disease than chickens kept in cages, according to a study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Acta Veterinaria Sc ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

( —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

( —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

( —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.