Broiler body weight monitoring is critical for evaluating the growth and performance of a flock. The obtained bodyweight and uniformity of the flock are indicators of daily growth rate, feed-to-meat conversion ratio, health conditions, and marketing day prediction. The traditional protocol is to manually sample and weigh a certain ratio of a flock one by one (e.g., 2% of the flock population or 50 birds, whichever is larger (Figure 1). However, conventional methods (i.e., catching a number of birds periodically) is time consuming, labor intensive, and tend to increase stresses on birds. For instance, a commercial broiler house has about 20,000 – 30,000 birds, it’s hard to know body weight of birds in real-time. Automatic monitoring of broiler chickens’ body weight is important for precision poultry productions and animal welfare.  

Figure 1. Manually bird catching and body weight measurement.

Emerging body weight monitoring methods have been tested in different countries, primarily based on digital scales and data collection (Figure 2). Popular systems in markets are mostly electronic scales manufactured by Fancom, Big Dutchman, and Veit, etc. Most products employ an installation mode of hanging from ceilings, which tends to create an installation difficulty for workers. Those products usually have high precision (>90% accuracy).

Figure 2. Different poultry and turkey body weight monitoring system.

Recently, a new body weighting system was developed by some researchers in Zhejiang University. The installation of the weighing scale is suggested to be away from feeder and waterlines to avoid interference from chicken feeding and drinking behaviors. To ensure the horizontal position and stability of the main body of the platform scale, the equipment was placed on a flat and solid ground, which has higher data collection and accuracy (e.g., an average accuracy of 99.5% ±2.3%).

Figure 3. A new platform for monitoring body weight of chickens.

In recent years, the artificial intelligence technologies such as machine vision or imaging-based method is under development for estimating the body weight of broilers. Due to feathers, the accuracy in using regular 2D cameras is not as good as expected. However, thermal imaging and 3D imaging may help reduce the impact birds’ feathers. University of Georgia researchers are developing a system (Figure 4) for monitoring broilers’ body weight automatically based integrated 3D and thermal imaging methods.

Figure 4. An integrated imaging method for monitoring broilers’ body weight.