Animal Welfare Research Needs for Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders

Following is a list of research priorities gaps identified during the poultry (meat) Code development process. Click here to visit the Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders Code web page for the Scientific Committee report and to view the full Code.

List compiled: February 2016 

Male to female aggression in broiler breeders

  • Research linking specific genetic traits with aggression

Feed restriction in broiler breeders

  • Differences arising from varying feeding schedules (ie skip-a-day versus daily feeding)
  • Feeding strategies (e.g., low nutrient quality feed)

Feather pecking and cannibalism in broiler breeders and turkeys

  • In turkeys, finding the source of motivation to peck
  • Effect of environmental enrichment

Air and litter quality

  • Ammonia measurement tools and effectiveness in barn environments

Stocking density

  • What are the stocking density effects on turkeys, including the behavioural impacts on both toms and hens
  • Determination of the appropriate stocking densities for broiler breeder pullets during rearing and for broiler breeder flocks.
  • Optimal stocking densities for broilers

Loading Densities

  • Optimum loading densities for all species in varying weather conditions, including bird weight/size, duration of lairage, trip duration, bird condition. Formula(s) for calculating densities?


  • Causes; ways to mitigate lameness; impact of genetics; management practices 
  • What is the prevalence of lameness?

Lighting regimes

  • Broilers – source of lighting, night time light intensity effects, definitive sleep studies as impacted by light and patterns of light; impact of light programs with mash feed
  • Turkeys – lighting programs, light intensity, source of lighting, night time light intensity effects, definitive sleep studies as impacted by light and pattern of light; impact of light programs with mash feed
  • Broiler breeders – lighting source, light intensity
  • Turkey breeders – lighting source, light intensity

Methods of euthanasia

  • Use of brain stem reflexes suggest that birds may remain conscious for some time following cervical dislocation. However, EEG would be more conclusive. High priority EEG for cd for all types and weight classes of poultry.
  • Comparing effectiveness of cd for roosters much more difficult to apply because of strong, muscular necks
  • Development of practical restraint techniques for non-penetrating captive bolts for turkeys
  • Assessing effectiveness of various techniques for non-penetrating captive bolt for domestic fowl especially broiler breeders.
  • Determining levels of consciousness during late incubation and in newly hatched chicks and poults
  • Evaluating mechanical cervical dislocation devices
  • Ideal methods for gas euthanasia, including the use of nitrogen
  • Practical and humane methods for mass depopulation
  • Practical on-farm methods for euthanasia using electrocution

Physical Alterations

  • Broilers – N/A
  • Turkeys and Breeders – toe-trimming, beak trimming, desnooding: ideal methods and timing for procedures
  • Management practices that can eliminate physical alterations

Pre-Transport Feed Withdrawal

  • Optimum time for feed withdrawal to balance food safety and welfare (from farm to processing)

Transporting newly hatched Chicks and Poults

  • Length of time that newly hatched chicks and poults are sustained by the yolk sac
  • Effectiveness of hydration/nutrient products used prior to and during transit