Enrichment involves making occasional or more long-term changes, which are beneficial to animal lives, and which seek to create natural conditions on the farms. By improving animal well-being, enrichment allows a better expression of their genetic heritage.
The most important factor is animal density.
Density is a permanent compromise between animal welfare and farming yields. A lower density will allow a better expression of natural behaviours.
Litter, much more than a floor.
To enrich the environment, Grimaud Frères has chosen to farm on straw litter only. Besides the comfort and warmth that it provides, long-stem straw allows the ducks to exercise their grip with their beaks and to nibble. Both behaviours which keep the animals busy and are beneficial for their well-being.
Laying on their own nests
At Grimaud Frères, for Pekin ducks, straw is placed on the nest box and the ducks make their own nest. They can even cover their eggs with straw as in the wild.
Compared to automatic nest boxes or slatted duckboards, colder and draughtier, laying is improved, and the number of eggs laid outside the nest is significantly reduced.
Water troughs with many uses.
Nipple waterers are common on duck farms. However, Grimaud Frères has chosen to use troughs for 90% of its breeding birds. Troughs improve the take up of water, but they also allow the ducks to wash their eyes, beak and feathers. Troughs require slightly more technical expertise and cleaning, but significantly improve the health of the animals.
Getting the lighting right
Three aspects need to be considered for good lighting – its duration, its intensity and its colour. These need to be adjusted according to the breeds and their natural conditions of origin. Thus, Muscovy, which come from subtropical regions will live in lighting conditions that are weaker and constant (around 13 hours a day), whereas Pekin (Eurasia) will have a lighting duration which changes with the seasons (max. 16 hours a day). For animal well-being, the lights-out cycle must be at least 8 hours. Transition phases must be gradual and last for at least 15 minutes. Depending on the lighting programmes for each species, the parameters must vary according to the production cycle.
Temperature, a parameter that must be controlled
As for lighting, temperature must be varied depending on the breed and production cycle. At the start, for example, radiant heaters are used to reproduce a temperature which is as close as possible to that of the mother. In all cases, the temperature at which the animals feel comfortable will be sought by identifying any signs of malaise (illness, fall in production, panting).
We have also tested:
- Water bottles and pieces of string as playthings
- Permanent perches
- The distribution of whole-grain cereals several times a day.
The important thing is to vary the enrichments and not to leave them in place for too long so that the animals get used to them.