Later exposure to perches and nests reduces individual hens’ occupancy of vertical space in an aviary and increases force of falls at night

Ali, B A; Toscano, Michael Jeffrey; Siegford, J M (2019). Later exposure to perches and nests reduces individual hens’ occupancy of vertical space in an aviary and increases force of falls at night. Poultry Science, 98(12), pp. 6251-6262. Oxford University Press 10.3382/ps/pez506

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Tiered aviaries are intended to improve laying hen welfare by providing resources that enable them to perform essential behaviors. However, hens must be able to navigate these complex systems efficiently and safely. This study investigated the influence of providing perches and nests starting at 17 or 25 wk of age (WOA) on hens’ use of vertical space in an aviary at 36 and 54 WOA. Three treatments were applied to pullets raised in floor pens until 17 WOA (4 units/treatment; 100 hens/unit). Control (CON) pullets were placed into aviaries at 17 WOA. Floor (FLR) pullets were placed into aviaries at 25 WOA. Perches and nests were placed in enriched (ENR) pullets’ floor pens at 17 WOA prior to moving ENR birds to aviaries at 25 WOA. Five focal hens/unit (n = 20 total hens/treatment) were fitted with accelerometers, and their diurnal movement (g) and frequency (n) and acceleration (g) of falls at night were recorded. Direct observation of focal hens was conducted for 6 min/hen at morning, midday, and evening for 3 consecutive days at 36 and 54 WOA, and location and time spent on vertical tiers were recorded. At 36 WOA, FLR hens spent more time on litter than CON and ENR, which spent more time in the top tier (all P ≤ 0.05). ENR hens exhibited higher vertical movement than CON and FLR hens (0.8, 0.6, and 0.3 g; P = 0.003). CON hens fell most often at night (16 vs. 9 FLR and 5 ENR), whereas FLR hens had higher acceleration and calculated collision force than CON and ENR hens during falls (0.8, 0.5, 0.3 g and 15, 10, 5 N, respectively; P ≤ 0.05). At 54 WOA, hens’ movement and vertical distribution were similar across treatments. Delaying birds’ access to perches and nests until 25 WOA impacted their movement, vertical space use, and falls at night for at least 10 wk. However, providing perches and nests at 17 WOA, even in floor pens, considerably mitigated such impacts.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

05 Veterinary Medicine > Research Foci > Veterinary Public Health / Herd Health Management
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute > Animal Welfare Division
05 Veterinary Medicine > Department of Clinical Research and Veterinary Public Health (DCR-VPH) > Veterinary Public Health Institute

UniBE Contributor:

Toscano, Michael Jeffrey

Subjects:

500 Science > 590 Animals (Zoology)

ISSN:

0032-5791

Publisher:

Oxford University Press

Language:

English

Submitter:

Lilian Karin Smith-Wirth

Date Deposited:

19 Nov 2019 15:09

Last Modified:

22 Nov 2019 01:33

Publisher DOI:

10.3382/ps/pez506

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.135065

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/135065

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