Lighting considerations to improve broiler welfare

A trio of welfare experts discussed the impact of light on broiler wellbeing on Thursday, January 31 at the Broiler Welfare Panel, presented by Watt Poultry USA and co-located with the 2020 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Karen Christensen, Karen Schwean-Lardner and Ann-Marie Neeteson discuss lighting at the Broiler Welfare Panel(Elizabeth Doughman).
Karen Christensen, Karen Schwean-Lardner and Ann-Marie Neeteson discuss lighting at the Broiler Welfare Panel(Elizabeth Doughman).

A trio of welfare experts discussed the impact of light on broiler wellbeing on Thursday, January 31 at the Broiler Welfare Panel, presented by Watt Poultry USA and co-located with the 2020 International Production & Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Georgia.

Karen Christensen, the Senior Director of Animal Wellbeing, Tyson Foods, Karen Schwean-Lardner, an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Saskatchewan and Ann-Marie Neeteson, Vice President of Welfare and Compliance, Aviagen addressed artificial versus natural lighting concerns and the optimal length of light/dark for birds during the panel.

The session was moderated by Terrence O’Keefe, the Content Director for Watt Global Media.

Artificial vs. natural light

Some welfare programs, like the new Global Animal Partnership (GAP) standards, require broilers have access to natural light, either via a window or by outdoor access.

The sun emits three kinds of ultraviolet light: UVA, UVB and UVC. The kind of windows typically used in broilers houses prevent UVB and UVC from entering the room, making the any possible benefits of natural sunlight negligible, Schwean-Lardner explained.

There is some scientific data that says that ultraviolet light can increase bird activity and decrease broiler pecking, she noted, however most of it is tied to light intensity.

Optimal light/dark period

Most experts recommend a minimum of four hours of darkness in the broiler house each day. Optimally, a lighting program will give birds between four and ten hours of darkness per day.

“It may also depend on where you have your chickens,” Neeteson said. In the summer, longer daylight hours can cause problems with bird behavior. In some European countries, poultry producers can now cover windows to ensure that the birds receive enough time in the dark.

All three panelists stressed that lighting programs need to be flexible – what’s right for one facility may not be best for another.

“I am absolutely passionate about the fact that lighting needs to be right for my program, because I don't want to implement anything on my birds that is in any way negative to them,” Christenson added.

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