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Poult Sci. 2009 Jan;88(1):29-37. doi: 10.3382/ps.2008-00221.

Effect of providing light during incubation on the health, productivity, and behavior of broiler chickens.

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  • 1Department of Animal Science, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Environmental stimuli present during incubation can affect the behavior and health of birds posthatch. Commercial broiler chickens are often incubated in complete darkness, receiving light only intermittently when the incubator is opened. To determine the effect of providing light during the prehatch period, we incubated Cobb broiler eggs (n = 664) under continuous light (24L:0D), no light (0L:24D), or 12 h of light (12L:12D); the light level was 550 lx. Various parameters were measured posthatch in these broilers (n = 506), which were raised in floor pens on a 12L:12D regimen. There were no incubation treatment differences in hatchability, mortality, growth, feed consumption, feed conversion ratio, gait score, overall feeding behavior activity, or general behavioral activity. However, broilers hatched from eggs incubated under 24L:0D or 12L:12D had greater feeding activity (P < 0.05) than the 0L:24D broilers during the 2 h after the lights came on. Eye dimensions did not differ between treatments, but the eyes of the 12L:12D broilers weighed less (P < 0.05) than those of the other treatments. Broilers incubated under 0L:24D had a greater level of composite physical asymmetry (1.87 +/- 0.11 mm), considered to be an indicator of developmental stress, than did 12L:12D (1.57 +/- 0.09 mm; P = 0.05) broilers; they also tended to have more composite asymmetry than 24L:0D (1.62 +/- 0.11 mm; P = 0.10) broilers. The results of this study indicate that providing light during incubation has no detrimental effect on production or health of broilers, but does have potential benefits in terms of reducing the effects of stressors associated with production and growth.

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