ABSTRACT: 1. The use of outdoor areas by two broiler strains, known to have different growth rates and with access to either moderate (M) or low (L) energy feeds, was examined to assess the consequences for production, meat quality, health and welfare. 2. Sixteen groups of either Ross 208 (ROSS) or a Labresse cross (LAB) were fed either feed M or L. They were raised indoors until 42 d of age when groups of 102 birds were moved to outdoor houses with free access to an outdoor area. 3. The number of chickens standing and lying, respectively, in each of 5 zones in the outdoor area were recorded at intervals throughout the outdoor growth period until slaughter at 84 d of age. Production variables were measured, and gait, feather condition, litter quality, and dermal lesions on foot-pads and hocks were scored together with objective meat quality measures. 4. Both strains showed a diurnal rhythm with most birds observed outside around sunrise and before sunset. Feed and strain both affected the distribution of the birds on the outdoor area, with more birds on feed M than L observed outside, and with more LAB birds outside and using more of the outdoor area than ROSS. This was reflected in some of the carcase and meat quality measures. Feather pecking and cannibalism only occurred in LAB. 5. ROSS was found to have a faster growth rate, poorer litter quality, more dermal lesions and impaired mobility, reflected in low usage of outdoor area and poor gait score compared with LAB. 6. This together with the presence of pectoral myopathies make ROSS unsuitable for 12 week growth in free range production systems. The occurrence of feather pecking and cannibalism in LAB make this particular Labresse cross questionable for meat-type poultry production.
British Poultry Science 06/2003; 44(2):161-9. · 1.00 Impact Factor