Effects of variation in nest curtain design on pre-laying behaviour of domestic hens

Ringgenberg, Nadine; Fröhlich, E K F; Harlander, Alexandra; Toscano, Michael Jeffrey; Würbel, Hanno; Roth, B A (2015). Effects of variation in nest curtain design on pre-laying behaviour of domestic hens. Applied animal behaviour science, 170, pp. 34-43. Elsevier 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.06.008

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Laying hens in loose-housing systems select a nest daily in which to lay their eggs among many identical looking nests, they often prefer corner nests. We investigated whether heterogeneity in nest curtain appearance – via colours and symbols – would influence nest selection and result in an even distribution of eggs among nests. We studied pre-laying behaviour in groups of 30 LSL hens across two consecutive trials with eight groups per trial. Half of the groups had access to six identical rollaway group-nests, while the others had access to six nests of the same type differing in outer appearance. Three colours (red, green, yellow) and three black symbols (cross, circle, rectangle) were used to create three different nest curtain designs per pen. Nest position and the side of entrance to the pens were changed at 28 and 30 weeks of age, respectively, whereby the order of changes was counterbalanced across trials. Nest positions were numbered 1–6, with nest position 1 representing the nest closest to the pen entrance. Eggs were counted per nest daily from week of age 18 to 33. Nest visits were recorded individually with an RFID system for the first 5 h of light throughout weeks 24–33. Hens with access to nests differing in curtain appearance entered fewer nests daily than hens with identical nests throughout the study but both groups entered more nests with increasing age. We found no other evidence that curtain appearance affected nest choice and hens were inconsistent in their daily nest selection. A high proportion of eggs were laid in corner nests especially during the first three weeks of lay. The number of visits per egg depended upon nest position and age: it increased with age and was higher after the nest position change than before in nest position 1, whereas it stayed stable over time in nest position 6. At 24 weeks of age, gregarious nest visits (hens visiting an occupied nest when there was at least one unoccupied nest) and solitary nest visits (hens visiting an unoccupied nest when there was at least one occupied nest) accounted for a similar amount of nest visits, however, after the door switch, gregarious nest visits made up more than half of all nest visits, while the number of solitary nest visits had decreased. The visual cues were too subtle or inadequate for hens to develop individual preferences while nest position, entrance side, age and nest occupancy affected the quantity and type of nest visits.

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

UniBE Contributor:

Ringgenberg, Nadine; Harlander, Alexandra; Toscano, Michael Jeffrey and Würbel, Hanno

ISSN:

0168-1591

Publisher:

Elsevier

Language:

English

Submitter:

Jeremy Davidson Bailoo

Date Deposited:

17 Jun 2016 13:58

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2018 13:48

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.applanim.2015.06.008

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.82577

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/82577

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