Influence of nest site on the behaviour of laying hens

Lentfer, T.L.; Gebhardt-Henrich, S.G.; Frohlich, E.K.F.; von Borell, E. (2011). Influence of nest site on the behaviour of laying hens. Applied animal behaviour science, 135(1-2), pp. 70-77. Amsterdam: Elsevier 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.08.016

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Low rates of nest acceptance by laying hens are a major problem in commercial poultry farming operations with aviary systems, leading to costly manual collection and cleaning of mislaid eggs. To gain knowledge about factors affecting nest use, laying hens' preferences for different nest locations were tested. Nests are normally installed at one of two sites: against a wall of the hen house or integrated into one tier of the aviary rack The preferences of laying hens for different nest sites have never been examined under commercial conditions. The aim of this study is to investigate whether behavioural differences can be detected between the different nest sites. The study consists of two consecutive trials involving 5027 Lohmann Selected Leghorn hens (LSL) and 601 layer hybrids selected for extensive housing conditions (EXT). The hens were randomly assigned to eight compartments per trial in groups of 355-360 LSL or 300 EXT in a laying hen house. Four compartments were equipped with a Volito Voletage (R) aviary system (VV), and four were equipped with a Rihs Bolegell (R) aviary system (RB), both of which contained either integrated or wall-placed nests when the experiments started. A strongly balanced crossover design with four periods was used. At 36, 44 and 52 weeks of age, the nest site in four out of the eight compartments was switched. Before each change, the fronts of half of the nests were videotaped during the light period, and the behaviour throughout the main laying period was analysed. Furthermore, the numbers of nest eggs and mislaid eggs in each compartment were recorded every day. No differences in the number of mislaid eggs between the two nest sites could be detected, except at the age of 20/21 weeks when hens in VV aviaries mislaid more eggs when nests were integrated (P = 0.0012). More hens stood simultaneously in front of the integrated nests than in front of wall-placed nests (P = 0.015). Activity of the laying hens increased (P = 0.0073), and stationary behavioural patterns declined (P = 0.0093), when the nests were placed by the wall. Hens inspected integrated nests for a longer duration than wall-placed nests, but wall-placed nests were visited more frequently. In addition to the nest site, the width of the platform in front of the nest influenced laying hen behaviour. Compared with narrower platforms, balance movements decreased on wider ones. Additionally, the platform design had to be taken into account as well, given that hens could not stand or walk as securely on wooden slats as on a grid floor. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Gebhardt, Sabine








Factscience Import

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:32

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:21

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URI: (FactScience: 218600)

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