Welfare assessment of modified rearing programmes for broiler breeders

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Female broiler breeders were fed ad libitum or a restricted quantity of food to achieve either a recommended body weight curve or a modified (linear) growth curve that allowed more generous feeding between 6 and 15 weeks of age. The birds were fed a ration containing either a normal or low concentration of crude protein. The welfare of the birds was assessed using a profile of indices of welfare at 6, 12, 18 and 24 weeks of age. 2. The low-protein ration decreased the body weight of birds fed ad libitum and restricted birds were fed substantially more of the low-protein ration to meet target body weights from 3 to 14 weeks of age. 3. The modified restricted rearing programme did not have an effect on indices of welfare. 4. Water intakes and plasma corticosterone concentrations were lower in restricted birds fed the low-protein ration and they spent more time resting, and less time spot-pecking, than birds fed the high-protein ration. 5. Birds fed ad libitum on both rations spent more time resting and less time foraging, drinking and spot-pecking than food restricted birds and were more fearful than restricted birds at 6, 12 and 18 weeks of age. 6. The heterophil:lymphocyte ratio in restricted birds was higher at 6 weeks and lower at 24 weeks compared with birds fed ad libitum. Humoral immunity was lower at 6 weeks of age in birds fed ad libitum and was similar at other ages. Cell-mediated immunity was similar among all treatments. 7. Plasma corticosterone concentrations were higher in restricted birds compared with birds fed ad libitum. Plasma creatine kinase activity was higher in birds fed ad libitum at 6, 12 and 18 weeks of age. Alkaline phosphatase and lactate dehydrogenase activity were higher whereas AST was lower in restricted birds compared with those fed ad libitum. 8. There was no evidence to support the use of low protein rations or linear growth curves to improve welfare in restricted broiler breeder females.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-32
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Poultry Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2001


  • Aging
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Animal Feed
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Breeding
  • Chickens/growth & development
  • Chickens/physiology
  • Corticosterone/blood
  • Creatine Kinase/metabolism
  • Dietary Proteins/administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Food Deprivation/physiology
  • Immunity/physiology
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase/metabolism
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male


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