Relationships between the degree of food restriction and welfare indices in broiler breeder females

Paul Hocking, M H Maxwell, M. A. Mitchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Broiler breeder females were fed ad libitum, or according to a commercial food restriction programme or to gain 0.85, 0.70, 0.55, 0.40 or 0.25 of the body weight of ad libitum-fed birds. Several indices of the welfare of the birds were assessed at 3-weekly intervals to 18 weeks of age and related to body weight by regression analysis. Results for 6, 12 and 18 weeks of age are presented in detail. 2. Water intake was consistently higher in the 0.25, 0.40 and commercial restriction treatments. 3. There was a negative curvilinear relationship at each age group between body weight and the heterophil-lymphocyte ratio and plasma corticosterone concentration. 4. There was a positive relationship between the plasma concentration of creatine kinase and body weight at 12 and 18 weeks of age. The relationships between body weight and the plasma activity of alkaline phosphatase and aspartate transaminase changed with the age and there were no differences between treatments for lactate dehydrogenase. 5. The time spent resting increased with body weight at each age. The relationship between time spent preening and body weight changed with age whereas that for oral activities was similar among restricted birds at 6, and among all treatments at 12 weeks of age. At 18 weeks there was an increase in oral activities with decreasing body weight. 6. Fearfulness was positively related to body weight. The response of the comb to phytohaemagglutinin injection was similar in all treatments and the antibody titre to injections of sheep red blood cells was curvilinear. 7. A principal components analysis of all measured traits at 6, 12 and 18 weeks of age was conducted. Most of the variables were redundant but at least one from each of the different classes of welfare indices was retained at 6 and 12 weeks of age. 8. It was concluded that a body weight during rearing in the range of 0.5 to 0.85 of ad libitum might provide for optimum welfare of broiler breeder females.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-78
Number of pages16
JournalBritish Poultry Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1996


  • Alkaline Phosphatase/blood
  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Antibody Formation
  • Biological Markers/blood
  • Body Weight
  • Chickens
  • Creatine Kinase/blood
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Fear
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Grooming
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Meat
  • Regression Analysis
  • Weight Gain


Dive into the research topics of 'Relationships between the degree of food restriction and welfare indices in broiler breeder females'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this