Scientists from the Iranian Islamic Azad University conducted 2 experiments to investigate the effects of alternative litter materials on growth performance and behaviours of broiler chicks.
Chicks were raised from 1 to 42 days of age, during the summer with an average temperature of 31°C.
In the first trial 300 broilers (Ross 308) were randomly assigned to one of 20 floor pens, which were bedded with (1) no litter, (2) wood shavings, (3) sand, (4) rice hulls and (5) recycled paper roll.
The results showed that broilers reared on rice hulls had significantly lower body weight, feed intake and antibody titer.
Litter materials had no significant influence on feed conversion, carcass yield, abdominal fat, gizzard, intestine, ceca and lymphoid organs expressed as a percentage of body weight.
Broilers like sand
In the 2nd experiment, 4 pens were divided into 4 quarters and bedded with sand, wood shavings, rice hulls and paper roll. The birds (20/pen) were observed, 10 times a day and one day per week from week 2-6.
The birds spent 49% of their time in the sand side, 19% in the wood shavings, 18% in the paper roll and 13% in the rice hulls. The proportion of the total time budget spent dust bathing was greater on the sand side. The time spent sitting was also higher in the sand and wood shavings. Walking was greater on the rice hulls and paper roll but foraging was lower on the rice hulls.
These results indicate that broilers reared on floor (no litter), sand and paper roll performed as well as those reared on wood shavings and when given a choice, broilers spent a greater proportion of their total time in sand and performed a greater proportion of their behaviors on sand.
The full research can be obtained from ScienceDirect.