Nest choice in laying hens: Effects of nest partitions and social status.

Ringgenberg, Nadine; Fröhlich, E K F; Harlander-Matauschek, Alexandra; Toscano, Michael Jeffrey; Würbel, Hanno; Roth, B A (2015). Nest choice in laying hens: Effects of nest partitions and social status. Applied animal behaviour science, 169, pp. 43-50. Elsevier 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.04.013

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Nest choice in loose-housed laying hens is influenced by nest characteristics, position and social factors. We examined the relative preference of laying hens for two group-nests differing in the presence or absence of a partition in the middle of the nest and whether this was influenced by social status. We hypothesized that hens would prefer the partitioned nest as it provides more enclosure, and that social status would affect nest choice. Relative preference for the nests was assessed in a free choice preference test conducted in two consecutive trials each with eight groups of 20 hens from 18 to 31 weeks of age. The hens were individually marked and had access to two commercial group-nests (49 × 114 cm), one of which contained an internal wooden partition (30 × 10 cm) which divided the nest in two halves. At 28 weeks of age, the position of the nests was switched. The number of eggs laid was recorded daily. On one day each at 24 and 28 weeks of age (after the nest switch) video recordings were made of the first 5 h of daylight. From these videos we recorded the number of nest visits per egg per nest and the number of nest visits for individual hens. On one day each at 24 and 27 weeks of age we also recorded videos from within the nests to assess individual nest choice for egg-laying. In addition, we recorded aggressive interactions between individual hens during the first hour of light on one day each at 18, 24 and 27 weeks of age to establish social status. We found a relative preference for the partition nest with a greater proportion of eggs laid in these nests as well as fewer nest visits per egg. The hens were also consistent in their egg-laying location over the two days of observation. After the nest switch, however, the hens did not switch egg laying location and the number of visits per egg no longer differed between nests suggesting that the preference for the partitioned nest was only important at the beginning of lay. In addition, although social rank had no impact on preference of nest type, lower ranking hens performed more nest visits and laid their eggs slightly later on the second observation day (week 27 of age) compared with higher ranking hens. Therefore, the use of partitions could improve the attractiveness of group-nests.

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:

22 Jun 2016 14:25

Last Modified:

06 Sep 2018 13:39

Publisher DOI:

10.1016/j.applanim.2015.04.013

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.82578

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/82578

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