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Welfare of broilers on farm

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This Scientific Opinion considers the welfare of domestic fowl (Gallus gallus) related to the production of meat (broilers) and includes the keeping of day‐old chicks, broiler breeders, and broiler chickens. Currently used husbandry systems in the EU are described. Overall, 19 highly relevant welfare consequences (WCs) were identified based on severity, duration and frequency of occurrence: ‘bone lesions’, ‘cold stress’, ‘gastro‐enteric disorders’, ‘group stress’, ‘handling stress’, ‘heat stress’, ‘isolation stress’, ‘inability to perform comfort behaviour’, ‘inability to perform exploratory or foraging behaviour’, ‘inability to avoid unwanted sexual behaviour’, ‘locomotory disorders’, ‘prolonged hunger’, ‘prolonged thirst’, ‘predation stress’, ‘restriction of movement’, ‘resting problems’, ‘sensory under‐ and overstimulation’, ‘soft tissue and integument damage’ and ‘umbilical disorders’. These WCs and their animal‐based measures (ABMs) that can identify them are described in detail. A variety of hazards related to the different husbandry systems were identified as well as ABMs for assessing the different WCs. Measures to prevent or correct the hazards and/or mitigate each of the WCs are listed. Recommendations are provided on quantitative or qualitative criteria to answer specific questions on the welfare of broilers and related to genetic selection, temperature, feed and water restriction, use of cages, light, air quality and mutilations in breeders such as beak trimming, de‐toeing and comb dubbing. In addition, minimal requirements (e.g. stocking density, group size, nests, provision of litter, perches and platforms, drinkers and feeders, of covered veranda and outdoor range) for an enclosure for keeping broiler chickens (fast‐growing, slower‐growing and broiler breeders) are recommended. Finally, ‘total mortality’, ‘wounds’, ‘carcass condemnation’ and ‘footpad dermatitis’ are proposed as indicators for monitoring at slaughter the welfare of broilers on‐farm.