The aim of this study was to determine the selection of bedding material by broiler
chickens during the rearing period and whether the choice was determinant to their
performing a specific behavior. To achieve this objective, a choice test was designed.
A choice pen was constructed where birds could move freely around the four selected
materials (straw, wood shavings, rice hulls and sand). Chickens were introduced in
this pen in four groups of eight birds, three days a week for one hour per day and
group, for four weeks. The location and the activity performed by each broiler were
recorded every five minutes. Results showed a preference for sand compared with the
other three substrates. However, differences between the behaviors performed in each
bedding material were shown mainly for resting (preferably performed on wood shavings
and straw), dust bathing (on sand), pecking and scratching (on rice hulls). Other
factors, such as the time of day, were also found to have effects on fighting and
drinking, and changes in behavioral patterns (resting, preening, eating, standing
and pecking) were also detected as broilers grew older.