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Effects of different catching practices on broilers

Catching broilers should be performed with the curtains in a closed position with catchers carrying one broiler each in an upright position.

Catchers should ensure that wings are contained and that they carefully place the birds inside the crates, ensuring the crates are at least 21cm from the ground.

Pay more attention

Companies need to pay more attention to broiler catchers, as the position of the curtain, loading time and position of the crate during handling can affect the welfare and behaviour of both birds and workers.

The findings, published in Poultry Science, followed a study to identify the influence of different catching practices during manual upright handling on broiler welfare and behaviour. The research, carried out by Brazilian scientists at the University of Estadual Paulista, examined catching in a total of 4,595 Cobb broilers with average live weight of 3.2kg and 42 days old on 3 commercial farms with open-sided sheds fitted with blue wall curtains. Average flock size was 14,654 birds. Water and feed was provided at libitum during rearing. Feed was withdrawn from all birds for 6-8 hours before transport to the slaughterhouse and they had access to water until the catching process started. A catching team was randomly selected by the slaughterhouse for evaluation but they had at least three months experience and often worked together.

Catching practices

6 catching practices were evaluated:

  • Shed curtain position
  • Loading time
  • Catching method
  • Catching team
  • Height of crates from the floor
  • Placement of the bird in the crate

Behavioural welfare indicators

Behavioural welfare indicators were defined as:

  • Broiler agitation in the catcher’s hands, measured when the birds flapped their wings, kicked or wriggled in the hands
  • Broiler striking the crate entrance as it was being placed in the crate, measured when the birds head, wings or legs strike the crate entrance
  • Broiler agitation in the crate, measured when birds flapped their wings or jumped inside the crate for 3 seconds or more after being placed there

A logistical regression model was used to calculate the chance of occurrence of each behavioural welfare indicate due to the handling factors.

All catching practices evaluated in the study did influence the birds’ welfare and behaviour with some procedures during broiler catching potentially improved their behaviour, making them less prone to accidents and consequently boosting welfare.