2007 - 2010

Effect of lighting programs on leg weakness and bird welfare in modern commercial broilers

Principal Investigator: Hank Classen, University of Saskatchewan
Status: Completed


Previous research suggests that lighting programs that include a period(s) of darkness are a simple way to improve broiler welfare. This research project aims to provide information on the impact of various darkness patterns, initiated at various ages, on leg weakness in broilers. Another objective of this project is to develop a simple method of assessing leg weakness on farm. Specifically, the objectives of this project are:
  1. To define the importance of length of continuous darkness on leg weakness and production traits in broilers
  2. To establish the effects of age of initiating extended darkness on leg weakness and broiler productivity
  3. To determine if gait scoring represents an accurate measure of leg pain
  4. To evaluate the use of force plate technology in assessing leg weakness
  5. To establish the relationship of behaviour to leg weakness
  6. To model the economic effects of implementing lighting programs with extended darkness

Research Progress

The first experiment towards achieving objective 1 is complete with a second underway. Ross x Ross 308 broilers were subjected to various lighting programs. Data were collected on body weight, feed consumption, mortality (frequency and cause), and behaviour (at 32-24 days of age), gait score, footpad condition and meat yield. Many data have been tabulated and analyzed. Video (behaviour) records have not been observed yet. Towards objective 4, a force plate system has been designed with testing and calibration work planned for January or February 2008. Work towards achieving objectives 2, 3 and 6 are planned for subsequent phases of the project.


$241,037 (CPRC $52,214, $158,223 NSERC/AAFC, Lilydale (in-kind) $30,600)

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