The association between early rearing, environment, gut microbiota composition, immune development and welfare in broiler chickens

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


There is increasing evidence that gut microbiota, behaviour, and immune
development are associated. Gut microbiota composition is affected by many
factors and the environment is one of these. The aim of the present study was to
determine the association between the early rearing environment, gut microbiota
composition, immune development, behaviour and welfare in broilers. Broilers
(Ross 308) were tested in a 2x2 factorial design (n=6 pens per treatment
combination): they were either hatched in their home pen (OH) or at the hatchery
(HH) and had a dark brooder until day (d) 14 as enrichment (EE) or no brooder
(NE). Microbiota composition, histology and immune development were measured
in the jejunum in two chickens/pen at d7, 14 and 35. In addition, microbiota
composition was determined in pooled faecal samples of 6 chickens per pen at
d14. Two chickens/pen were subjected to a novel environment test (NET) at d2
and d11 and behaviour was observed at d6, 13 and 33. At d35, composite
asymmetry of metatarsus width and length and toe length was determined, and
footpad dermatitis and hock burn was scored. NE had a higher microbiota diversity
and different composition in faecal samples, and a higher diversity in jejunal
samples compared to EE at d14 (p≤0.05), and a tendency for a difference within
OH was found in jejunal samples at d35 (p=0.068). At d7 and d35 the number of
CD3+ cells, and at d35 KUL+ cells (indicator for macrophages) in jejunal villus
mucosa were higher in NE than EE (preinstatement than OH chickens and EE chickens showed more social
reinstatement than NE chickens in the NET (pchickens were sitting more than EE (plitter pecking while sitting, but at d33 EE were eating more and litter pecking while
sitting (age*enrichment: pthan NE (pthan NE (pthat especially the dark brooder affected the behaviour and had a positive effect
on welfare, and that both microbiome composition and immune development were
also affected by the brooder. It remains to be further studied whether the
microbiome affects welfare and immune development, or that the early rearing
environment affects microbiome, immune development and behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventWPC World's Poultry Congress 2022 - Palais des Congrès, Paris, France
Duration: 7 Aug 202211 Aug 2022


ConferenceWPC World's Poultry Congress 2022
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