10 August 1998
Welfare thumbs-up for keeping chicks slim

By FWi staff

CONTROLLED feeding of broiler breeder chickens to keep their weight down may be acceptable on welfare grounds, claims a report released today (Monday). But there the level at which restricted feeding becomes permissible has yet to be decided.

Broiler breeders are fed on a controlled diet from the age of 15 days to prevent them becoming too fat to lay eggs. The diet is considerably less than the birds would eat if they were fed on demand.

“Because broilers have been selected to display a prodigious appetite, broiler breeders will be hungry for considerable periods of time,” states the report by the Farm Animal Welfare Council.

“It is clear that some degree of feed restriction is essential for welfare, but there is no agreed method of determining objectively at what level restriction becomes unacceptable.”

Commercial broilers produced for the table are fed to reach a typical slaughter weight of about 2.1kg at six-weeks-old. But breeding broilers need to reach a similar weight over 18 weeks.

The report concludes that restricted feed levels should be adequate to ensure a steady week-on-week growth rate of not less than 7%.