Influence of Housing System on Growth Performance and Intestinal Health of Salmonella-challenged Broiler Chickens

Enteric challenge with Salmonella in broilers for the first two weeks of life was more pronounced in birds reared on litter than in cages, according to new research from Brazil. This was attributed to the recycling of bacteria from droppings and the environment. Performance was better for the group reared on litter, which the researchers put down to the ingestion of non-digestible particles that greatly improved diet digestibility.
calendar icon 28 July 2012
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In the introduction to a paper in Current Research in Poultry Science, F.B.O. Santos of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Cooperation, (Embrapa) hypothesises that rearing chickens on litter floors or in cages may influence their performance, especially when they are colonised by enteric pathogens, such as Salmonella.

The paper, written with co-authors from the Federal University of Uberlandia in Brazil and Noth Carolina State University in the US, describes a trial with male Ross 308 broilers, whick were randomly assigned to 32 litter floor (litter) pens in a curtain-sided house or 32 cages (cages) in a total confinement house (25 birds per pen or cage).

Birds were orally inoculated with 106 CFU of a cocktail of S. enterica subsp. enterica at three days of age.

Salmonella populations, body weights, feed conversion ratio and the weights of spleen and liver relative to body weight were determined at 14, 28 and 42 days of age. At each time point, characteristics of the intestinal segments were scored as an indicator of gut health on 32 birds per house.

Salmonella population was higher in litter than cages treatment at 14 days of age, which corresponded with a higher incidence of mucoid jejunum exudate. In contrast, cages had higher incidence of ileal grain chips than litter at 14 days, indicating inferior gizzard function.

At 42 days of age, litter birds had higher breast meat yield, heavier body weight and improved cumulative feed conversion ratio than those in cages.

Although, birds raised on litter floors showed greater 14-day Salmonella colonisation than cage-reared birds, their digestion capacity appeared superior. Santos and co-authors concluded that birds reared on litter floors had fewer undigested feed particles in their distal small intestine, which correlates with enhanced growth performance and breast meat yield.


Santos F.B.O., A.A. Santos, E.O. Oviedo-Rondon and P.R. Ferket. 2012. Influence of housing system on growth performance and intestinal health of Salmonella-challenged broiler chickens. Current Research in Poultry Science, 2(1):1-10. DOI: 10.3923/crpsaj.2012.1.10

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July 2012
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