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Project Details

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Assessment of factors influencing behaviour & welfare of birds in FR systems
Summary The demand for free range chicken meat is increasing, mostly driven by consumer concerns that indoor housing restricts the behaviour of birds (e.g. space, environmental stimulation). Conversely, consumers perceive access to an outdoor pasture as a more ‘natural’ environment that should promote bird welfare. However, there is a lack of scientific knowledge relative to the use of the free range area and its implications, advantages or disadvantages, for bird welfare and productivity. The general public perceives that birds able to access an outdoor range have good welfare whereas producers and veterinarians may think of the outdoor range as a stressful situation for their birds, potentially threatening welfare. None of these assumptions rely on sciencebased evidence.

This project will assess the welfare implications of free range systems. The aims are to: 1) Elucidate the relative use of the outdoor range by the flock overtime; 2) Assess the impact of range use on the behaviour and welfare of the birds; 3) Identify the influence of outdoor range characteristics, weather, and management practices on the use of the outdoor range. Detailed information regarding the use of the outdoor range use will be obtained by tracking individual birds. This information will be analysed in conjunction with the bird’s behaviour, physiology and productivity to assess the welfare implications of providing outdoor access. Best management practices and environmental conditions will be identified that lead to sciencebased improvements in the management of free range systems.
Program Chicken Meat
Research organisation The University of Melbourne
Objective summary The main objectives of this project are to:
1.Elucidate the relative use of the outdoor range by the flock overtime.
2.Assess the impact of outdoor range use on the behaviour and welfare of individual birds.
3.Identify the influence of outdoor range characteristics, weather, and management practices on the use of the outdoor range.

The expected outcomes of this project are:
1.The provision of sciencebased evidence to understand the implications of outdoor range use on the welfare and productivity of the birds.
2.The identification of management and housing strategies that result in optimal use of the outdoor range.
Project Stage Closed
Project start date Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Project completion date Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Journal articles from project Not Available
National priority Frontier technologies for building and transforming Australian industries
Rural priority Advanced Technology
RIRDC goal CME-Deliver safe food and good animal welfare outcomes
Principal researcher Jean-Loup Rault
Research manager Kylie Hewson
Admin contact Trish Kendal