A £400,000 grant has been awarded to researchers at Scotland’s Rural College and Newcastle University to find ways to improve the diet of broiler breeders.

Broiler breeders share much of the voracious appetite that their progeny, broilers, need to achieve fast growth. To remain healthy, they need to be fed restricted diets when in rear to prevent obesity – keeping birds hungry has long been a welfare concern for the poultry industry.

The funding, provided by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Council, will allow researchers to find ways of keeping birds fuller for longer by studying their behaviour and brain activity.

Dr Rick D’Eath, leading the project for Scotland’s Rural College, said the research would assess how broiler breeders are affected by different types and amounts of feed. “We need to understand how best to rear them from chick to adult, keeping them healthy without over or underfeeding them.”

The project will investigate adding indigestible high-fibre ingredients to feed, which can fill the stomach, but may not necessarily cause the feeling of satiety. Analysis of behaviour, as well as brain and gut physiology, will indicate whether the birds truly feel full.

“The feeding of broiler breeders is a welfare concern around the world,” added Dr D’Eath. “At the end of this three-year project we hope to inform and influence future poultry industry guidance on feeding broiler breeders, which could improve the welfare of millions of chickens around the world.”

See more: The February issue of Poultry World focuses on broiler breeders. Secure your copy by calling 0844 412 2294.