Assessing behavior in Aseel pullets under free-range, part-time free-range, and cage system during growing phase

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The objective of this study was to explore the effects of free-range (FR), part-time free-range (PTFR), and cage system (CS) on behavioral repertoire in Lakha (LK), Mushki (MS), Peshawari (PW), and Sindhi (SN) varieties of Aseel chicken during the growing phase (9 to 18 wk of age). In total, 144 Aseel pullets were allotted to 12 treatment groups in a 3 × 4 (rearing system × Aseel variety) factorial arrangement, according to a randomized complete block design (RCBD). Each treatment group was replicated 3 times with 4 birds in each replicate (12 birds per treatment group). The pullets were randomly marked weekly for identification, and their behavior was observed through the focal animal sampling method. Time spent on different behavioral activities was recorded and converted to a percentage. The data were analyzed using 2-way ANOVA under a factorial arrangement using SAS 9.1, and the behavioral parameters were evaluated. The results indicated greater (P < 0.05) sitting, standing, drinking, preening, and aggressiveness in CS; walking, running, and jumping in PTFR; and foraging and dustbathing in both FR and PTFR, whereas feather pecking was found to be reduced in FR compared with PTFR and CS. Among varieties, PW showed the least feeding/foraging and feather pecking behavior, and greater standing, running, and jumping behavior (P < 0.05). However, SN spent less time in walking and preening, and more time in sitting, drinking, and aggressiveness. Dustbathing was found to be similar in all Aseel varieties (P = 0.135). In conclusion, the PTFR system could be suggested as a substitute for conventional housing systems because it better accommodates normal behavior in Aseel pullets.

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