Stocking Density, Litter Quality and Poultry Welfare

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Farm profitability can be negatively impacted by animal welfare issues. One of the more controversial animal welfare issues is the proposed guidelines to reduce stocking density. In a recent 2.7 million bird stocking density study in the United Kingdom, Dawkins, et al. (2004) found environmental conditions had more direct impact on broiler welfare than stocking density itself. High litter moisture and ammonia were identified as the welfare issues having the greatest negative influence on bird health, carcass defects, and the production of corticosteroid, a “stress” hormone. Although genetics, diet, and vaccination programs are beyond a poultry grower’s control, the following management opportunities can help mitigate the negative consequences associated with high stocking densities, improve litter and air quality, and increase profitability and poultry welfare.

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