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Eating fly larvae can improve broilers welfare by facilitating natural behaviour

Research presented by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) has shown that if broilers have to forage and peck the larvae, they move more, which improves their welfare

During the research, live black soldier fly larvae were offered in different quantities and at different times during the day. “We saw that the broilers were motivated all day long to get to the larvae,” said researcher Allyson Ipema. “The broilers showed a lot of natural foraging behaviour: they kept scratching and pecking at the larvae.”

Healthier legs

Fast-growing broilers do not move enough, which can cause problems with their legs. By offering live larvae in the litter several times a day, the broilers become more active and walk more. This benefits the leg health of the broilers, and also improves animal welfare.

The larvae are not only tasty, they are also full of fat and protein, which makes them a good addition to the diet. The research shows that the broilers fed the most larvae also spent the longest time on their natural foraging behaviour. “There is a maximum to this, though. If we supplement the diet for more than 10% with insects, the broilers will probably grow less fast,” Ipema added.

Circular food source

Offering live larvae not only has a positive effect on the welfare of broilers. “An additional advantage is that the larvae from this research can easily be grown on manure and waste products,” stated associate professor Liesbeth Bolhuis. “This also makes them a potentially sustainable and circular food source.”

The researchers found even greater positive effects on behaviour when the broilers were presented with the larvae in transparent tubes with holes. This was shown in a second study. “Because the chicks have to make an effort to get the larvae out of the tubes. They spend a large part of the day on it,” added Bolhuis.

Read the full study here!