1. The aim of this study was to evaluate how splitting the dark period (scotoperiod) affects feeding behaviour and associated intestinal measures in broilers. 2. Ross 308 broilers were reared to 37 d in groups given either a daily 8-h continuous scotoperiod (DARK 8) or an intermittent light schedule with two equally spaced 4-h scotoperiods (DARK 4þ4), which yielded the same total duration of darkness per 24 h. 3. Feeding behaviour was recorded weekly from 24-h video recordings of 24 groups each of 64 birds. Empty intestinal weights as well as their contents were measured weekly at 4 time points (n¼192). Digestive transit time was estimated on d 29 using a chromic oxide marker; production variables and the extent of foot pad dermatitis were also recorded. 4. In the 3 h prior to a scotoperiod, feeding activity increased in chickens from DARK 8 but not DARK 4þ4. This increase was reflected in a higher relative content of the crop in DARK 8 at this time. 5. Immediately following the scotoperiod, feeding activity peaked and, although the chickens in DARK 4þ4 expressed more feeding behaviour in the first 20 min after the scotoperiod, the chickens in DARK 8 had overall higher feeding activity across the day. However, DARK 4þ4 had a higher feed intake and weight gain. The occurrence and severity of foot pad dermatitis was similar between treatments. 6. In conclusion, broilers modify their feeding behaviour according to the prevailing light schedule. Eight consecutive hours of darkness reduced growth, but did not affect overall feed conversion efficiency, and did not appear to exacerbate hunger or foot pad dermatitis to any great extent.
British Poultry Science, 2011, Vol 52, Issue 1, p. 1-10