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Comparative Evaluation of Poultry-Human and Poultry-Robot Avoidance Distances

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 63(2): 477-484. (doi: 10.13031/trans.13644) @2020
Authors:   Pratik Parajuli, Yanbo Huang, Tom Tabler, Joseph L. Purswell, Janice L. DuBien, Yang Zhao
Keywords:   Animal welfare, Avoidance distance (AD), Broiler, Laying hens, Robotics.


Compared to a human, a robot operated properly would not induce more fear in broilers.

Bird age, robot operating speed, and operation frequency may affect poultry-robot avoidance distances.

Broiler and hen avoidance distances decrease as the birds become older.

Higher robot operating speeds increase poultry-robot ADs for broilers and white hens, but not for brown hens

Abstract. Advances in robotics promote interest in applications in the poultry industry to reduce human labor; however, skeptics express concerns regarding potential animal stress stemming from poultry-robot interactions. The objective of this study was to evaluate the avoidance distance (AD), a parameter reflecting stress in an animal due to an approaching object, of broilers and laying hens to a human assessor and a robotic ground vehicle. ADs were determined for birds at different ages (2, 4, 6, and 8 week old broilers; 28, 47, and 66 week old brown hens; and 27, 46, and 70 week old white hens) in a commercial broiler house and two commercial cage-free hen houses. The poultry-robot ADs were determined at three robot operating speeds (0.2, 0.4, and 0.6 m s-1) and two operation frequencies (bi-weekly and daily, for broilers only). The results show that the overall poultry-human and poultry-robot ADs were, respectively, 48 to 82 cm and 83 to 110 cm for broilers, 54 to 87 cm and 114 to 131 cm for brown hens, and 71 to 76 cm and 92 to 99 cm for white hens when the birds experienced the robot on test days only. Broiler-robot ADs significantly decreased to 30 to 63 cm when the birds were exposed to the robot daily, reflecting less stress induced by the robot than by the human. Poultry ADs to the human and robot tended to decrease for older birds. Slower robot operating speeds led to shorter ADs for broilers at 6 and 8 weeks of age and for white hens at all ages but did not affect ADs for broilers at 2 and 4 weeks of age and brown hens at all ages. Slower robot operating speeds also reduced the bird fleeing speed (FS). It is concluded that the robot did not induce more stress than the human in the broilers. The baseline poultry-robot ADs obtained in this study provide valuable information for understanding poultry interactions with robots and may help optimize robot operations for application in the poultry industry.

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