Novel tracking system for monitoring individual broiler activity throughout life

Monitoring activity levels of individual broilers while they are group-housed can be a challenge. However, information on individual levels of activity can be valuable, as this may serve as an indication for health, welfare and performance of the birds. Therefore, there is an interest in automated monitoring of activity of individual group-housed broilers.

Within the Breed4Food project ‘Individual Tracking’, a novel passive radio frequency identification (RFID) tracking system was implemented and it was studied whether this system was suitable for tracking activity of individual broilers throughout life. Broilers were fitted with small, lightweight RFID tags in leg bands from the day of hatching onwards and were housed in a pen that was fitted with a grid of RFID antennas underneath the floor. With this RFID system, the location of broilers within the pen could be tracked continuously. Using the information on location over time, distances moved by the broilers could be estimated as a measure of activity. To validate this RFID system, top-view video recordings of the pen were made, to assess both the location of the birds over time and the individual distances moved.
A comparison between RFID and video showed that in 62.5% of the cases, the location on video and from the RFID data matched completely, i.e. the bird was positioned in the same grid cell in both observations. When allowing for a deviation of one neighboring antenna grid cell, this increased to 99.2%. The distances calculated from the RFID data and as scored on video showed a strong rank correlation (rs = 0.82). Overall, with this system detailed individual data on broiler location and activity can be obtained throughout life. This data can be valuable for assessing - and perhaps even predicting - health, welfare and performance of broilers and can potentially be implemented in breeding programs.  

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