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Comparative evaluation of poultry avoidance distances to human vs. robotic vehicle

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  10th International Livestock Environment Symposium (ILES X)  .(doi:10.13031/iles.18-142)
Authors:   Pratik Parajuli, Yanbo Huang, Yang Zhao, Tom Tabler, Joseph L. Purswell

Abstract. . Poultry production requires daily inspection of housing to ensure proper animal care. The inspection is currently performed manually, which is laborious and time consuming. Although developments in robot industry highlight the potential of robotic applications in the poultry industry to reduce labor involvement, skeptics expressed their concerns regarding the stresses stemmed from bird-robot interactions. The objective of this study was to evaluate the avoidance distances (ADs, a parameter reflecting fearfulness of animals to certain objects) of laying hens and broilers to a human vs. a robot vehicle, operated at three speeds with different bird ages. This study was conducted at commercial cage-free (CF) hen houses and a commercial broiler house. A Lynxmotion robot (32cm x 33cm x 13cm, L x W x H) was used to evaluate the poultry-robot ADs. The poultry-human ADs were determined following the Welfare Quality® assessment protocol. The results show that the ADs of hens were 54-88 cm to human and 109-131cm to the robot, and the ADs of broilers were 51-84cm to human and 78-126cm to the robot. Shorter poultry-human AD reflected a better interaction between poultry and human. Decreasing operation speed of robot seemed not to reduce the ADs for laying hens at all ages and broilers at 2 and 4 weeks of age; however, lower speed led to shorter ADs of broilers at 6 and 8 weeks of age. Mean ADs of poultry to human and the robot were numerically lower for older birds. Based on our observation, bird alertness could be triggered by motor noise and sudden movement of the robot. The outcome of this study provides valuable information to understand and optimize the robotic operations at commercial poultry houses, while minimizing robot-induced stress.

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