Animal Welfare

Better Understanding Bird Behavior

In the U.K. and Europe, Pilgrim’s Moy Park has been working with Professor Niamh O’Connell at Queens University Belfast (QUB) to further understand the lived experiences of birds and automate measures of bird behavior. In 2022 the QUB team was awarded $1 million from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research ‘SMART Broiler’ competition in conjunction with McDonald’s. Moy Park was the industrial partner and supported the project, with the key aim to develop camera-based technology to provide automated behavior and additional management insights - called FlockFocus. The initial outcomes from the project have shown that the birds can be identified and that gait scores and play behavior can be automatically captured within the field of vision of the camera.

One of the biggest challenges in this field of research is to understand the experience of the individual. Over the last 10 years we have been exploring how to track individual birds. In May 2023 in partnership with Moy Park, the first paper of its kind was published entitled ‘large variation in the movement of individual broiler chickens tracked in a commercial house using ultra-wideband backpacks’. This provides fascinating insight on the level of individual variation that exists within flocks and for the first time documents the activity levels up until depletion. The findings open up a plethora of opportunities to better understand how to design environments to enhance bird welfare and performance.

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