The role of behaviour in the assessment of poultry welfare

Document Type


Publication Date



The problem of assessing welfare in poultry has been exacerbated by three widespread but erroneous assumptions. These are (1) that there are general indicators of welfare that apply to all situations, (2) that indicators of good welfare and those of reduced welfare are distinct from one another and (3) that any change in a welfare ‘indicator’ reflects a change in the welfare state of the animal. These three assumptions are challenged and replaced with a more evolutionary view of the behavioural and physiological responses of the domestic fowl to its environment. Apart from physical health, which is the Cornerstone of all good welfare, the most important additional component of poultry welfare is psychological health or ‘contentment’, which can be most reliably accessed through the birds' own choice behaviour.