Photoperiod has been shown to significantly affect broiler performance. However, the effects of the traditional 1-min dimming period on broiler growth and welfare are unclear. In this study, 4 consecutive trials were conducted to compare the effects of an intermittent, short-dawn/dusk photoperiod (ISD) to an increasing, long-dawn/dusk photoperiod (ILD) on broiler growth, stress, and welfare. Straight run day-of-hatch Ross 708 × Ross 708 broilers were placed in 1 of 4 commercial broiler barns (2 b of 26,200 birds each per treatment) and grown to 45 D of age. The photoperiod in the ISD treatment consisted of 24L:0D day 0 to 6, 16L:8D day 7 to 13, 12L:4D:2L:6D day 14 to 20, 12L:4D:3L:5D day 21 to 27, 12L:4D:4L:4D day 28 to 41, and 13L:3D:5L:3D day 42 to 45, with a 1-min transition between light and dark periods. The photoperiod in the ILD treatment consisted of 23L:1D day 0 to 7, 16L:8D day 8 to 21, 18L:6D day 22 to 32, and 20L:4D day 33 to 45, with a 1-min light/dark transition period day 0 to 7 and a 30-min transition period day 8 to 45. Treatments were rotated among the barns between trials. On day 45, blood samples were collected from 20 birds/barn (n = 40/treatment) to assess plasma corticosterone (CORT) and heterophil/lymphocyte (H/L) ratio. One hundred birds per barn (n = 200/treatment) were weighed individually and assigned scores for hock burn, foot pad dermatitis, and feather condition on day 45. Trial differences were observed for all measures (P ≤ 0.001). Birds in the ISD treatment were heavier on day 45 (P < 0.001) and had lower hock burn (P = 0.044) and foot pad dermatitis (P < 0.001) scores. Birds in the ILD treatment had lower plasma CORT (P < 0.001) and H/L ratio (P < 0.001). No treatment differences were observed for feather condition (P > 0.05). Overall, birds reared under the intermittent, short-dawn/dusk photoperiod had higher day 45 live body weights and lower hock burn and foot pad dermatitis scores, whereas those reared under the increasing, long-dawn/dusk photoperiod had reduced measures of short-term and long-term stress.
Nelson, Jill R.; Bray, Joey L.; Delabbio, Juliette; and Archer, Gregory S., "Comparison of an intermittent, short-dawn/dusk photoperiod with an increasing, long-dawn/dusk photoperiod on broiler growth, stress, and welfare" (2020). Faculty Publications. 31.