FreeBirds

  • Encouraging organic chickens and hens to be more outdoor

Introduction

The goal for FreeBirds is to develop more successful husbandry practices in organic poultry production in order to make the chickens be more outdoor, in accordance with the intentions of the organic concept.

The outdoor stay improves the bird welfare and consolidates consumer acceptance and marketing of the organic products.

The welfare of organic broiler and egg production can be improved all over Europe.    

Background

Birds with less access to outdoor areas have more welfare problems such as, injurious pecking and parasites. Therefore, birds that spend more time outdoors have a better welfare. 

However, free range access may have negative impacts: it can increase the risk for diseases carried by wildlife, predation and contact with soil contaminants. Manure produced in the free range can also have a negative effect on the environment.

Main project activities

  • Different ranging patterns of the birds will be compared using an innovative automatic tracking system.
  • The relation between range use and parasite infections in organic broilers and layers will be investigated.
  • Environmental consequences of manure nutrients in the soil of the range area will be studied.
  • Suitability of different strains for meat or egg production will be evaluated regarding behaviour, health, performance and welfare.

Benefits and results

Expected long-term societal benefits

For many consumers of organic food, not only the product that they buy in the shops determines the quality of eggs and chicken meat. They also acknowledge the perceived welfare status of the chickens and hens as an important aspect of the food. Thus, they rely on the perceived welfare friendliness of the production.

Therefore, producers of organic chickens and egg need to live up to the expectations of consumers and ensure high levels of bird welfare.

Organic systems are viewed as having the potential to ensure high levels of animal welfare, but these objectives are not always achieved. The FreeBirds project specifically addresses these issues of bird health and welfare and environmental impact for more knowledge for improving the welfare of organic laying hens and broiler chickens.    

Coordinator of FreeBirds

  • Stefan Gunnarsson, Dept. of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) Skara, Sweden stefan.gunnarsson@slu.se

Implementation and plans to reach target groups

We aim for reaching farmers producing organic broilers and eggs, as well as, the advisors in the sector. Farmers and advisors will get knowledge about the results from our project by popular reports and articles in popular agricultural press.