Behavior of Broiler Chickens in Four Different Substrates: a Choice Test
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The aim of this study was to determine the selection of bedding material by broiler chickens during the rearing period and whether the choice was determinant to their performing a specific behavior. To achieve this objective, a choice test was designed. A choice pen was constructed where birds could move freely around the four selected materials (straw, wood shavings, rice hulls and sand). Chickens were introduced in this pen in four groups of eight birds, three days a week for one hour per day and group, for four weeks. The location and the activity performed by each broiler were recorded every five minutes. Results showed a preference for sand compared with the other three substrates. However, differences between the behaviors performed in each bedding material were shown mainly for resting (preferably performed on wood shavings and straw), dust bathing (on sand), pecking and scratching (on rice hulls). Other factors, such as the time of day, were also found to have effects on fighting and drinking, and changes in behavioral patterns (resting, preening, eating, standing and pecking) were also detected as broilers grew older.