Cool perch availability improves the performance and welfare status of broiler chickens in hot weather

Poult Sci. 2012 Aug;91(8):1775-84. doi: 10.3382/ps.2011-02058.


A study was conducted to determine whether water-cooled perches would be preferred by commercial broilers exposed to a hot ambient environment, and subsequently, whether utilization of these perches would improve performance and the well-being of birds, beyond those provided by normal perches. Four hundred and thirty-two 14-d-old male chickens from a commercial fast-growing strain (Arbor Acres) were housed in the following conditions: 1) cool perches, 2) normal perches, and 3) control pens with no perches. The results showed that there was greater use of cool perches than normal perches for broiler chickens during summer (F1, 4=125, P=0.0004). Cool perches increased BW gain (F2, 6=5.44, P=0.0449) and breast (F2, 24=3.31, P=0.0539) and thigh muscle yields (F2, 24=6.29, P=0.0063), while decreasing abdominal fat deposition (F2, 24=7.57, P=0.0028), cooking loss (pectoralis major, F2, 24=3.30, P=0.0542; biceps femoris, F2, 24=3.42, P=0.0493), percentage of panting birds (F2, 6=102, P<0.0001), and scores of footpad (F2, 6=122, P<0.0001) and hock (F2, 6=68.2, P<0.0001) burn, and abdominal plumage condition (F2, 6=52.0, P=0.0002), particularly toward the end of the rearing period. In contrast, normal perches hardly affected growth performance, carcass composition, meat quality and behavioral patterns, and appeared to worsen the welfare status, including footpad and hock burns and abdominal plumage condition, due to a lower occupancy rate. Cool perches offer a thermoregulatory and performance advantage to broilers exposed to a hot environment and appear to be a management strategy for improving the production and well-being of commercial broilers.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animal Welfare
  • Animals
  • Body Temperature
  • Chickens*
  • Feathers / pathology
  • Foot Diseases / prevention & control
  • Foot Diseases / veterinary
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Male
  • Poultry Diseases / etiology*
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Tarsus, Animal / injuries
  • Tarsus, Animal / pathology