Group level and individual activity of broiler chickens hatched in 3 different systems

Mona F Giersberg*, Roos Molenaar, Ingrid C de Jong, Kris De Baere, Bas Kemp, Henry van den Brand, T Bas Rodenburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Information on the behavior of chickens hatched in different systems is limited and inconsistent across different studies. Changes in broiler activity can be measured automatically and continuously. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of 3 hatching systems on flock activity using a commercial tracking system, and to compare these findings to individual activity measured under experimental conditions. As this experiment was part of a larger study, it was possible to investigate the effects of vaccination on individual activity. In study 1, flock activity was measured in chickens that hatched either conventionally in the hatchery (HH), in a system which provided nutrition in the hatcher (HF), or on-farm (OH). Chickens were reared in 2 batches, in 12 pens/batch (1,155 animals/pen). One camera recorded top-view images of each pen. A daily activity index (moved pixels/total pixels × 100) was calculated by automated image analysis. In study 2, individual activity was measured under experimental conditions using an ultra-wideband (UWB) system. Chickens from the 3 hatching systems were reared in 3 pens (1 pen/treatment, 30 animals/pen). At d14, UWB-tags were attached to 5 chickens/pen, which tracked the distances moved (DM). In study 1, group level activity showed a significant age × hatching system interaction (F 8,752= 5.83, P < 0.001). HH and HF chickens showed higher activity levels than OH chickens in wk 1, 4, and 5. In wk 3, higher activity levels were measured in HH compared to HF, and in HF compared to OH pens. In contrast, HH chickens in small groups in study 2 showed lower DM than HF and OH chickens in wk 3 (P < 0.001). DM did not differ between treatments before vaccination, however, thereafter, HH chickens showed longer DM, whereas HF and OH chickens moved less. The results indicate that hatching system affected broiler activity at specific ages. Effects found at flock level could not be reproduced by individual measurements in study 2, although stocking density was comparable.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102706
Number of pages8
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number7
Early online date9 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • activity
  • broiler
  • early feeding
  • on-farm hatching
  • tracking


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