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Behaviour and production of laying hens in three prototypes of cages incorporating nests

, : Behaviour and production of laying hens in three prototypes of cages incorporating nests. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 35(1): 41-54

Laying hens were housed in groups of four in three prototypes of cage each incorporating four roll-away nest hollows. Observations on behavior and production were conducted for 111 days. The hens consistently laid eggs in the nests despite their rudimentary design. The choice of nest for oviposition was conservative; during an 8 day period, 87.5% of the hens laid 80% of their eggs in only one site. Once a bird selected a site, this was used for several weeks. Within each cage type, some nests were used for oviposition significantly more frequently than others, and when sitting on the nests the hens oriented themselves non-randomly. The possible reasons for these behaviors are discussed. The modal number of nests used for oviposition was 2 for cages Types A and C, and 3 for Type B. The hens inspected the nests non-randomly, but the frequency of inspections was largely unrelated to site selected for oviposition. Floor laying occurred but decreased significantly to less than 11% as the hens acquired experience of the nests. Problems included soiling of the nests and minor feather-pecking. The behavior and production recorded in this preliminary study support the contention that radical modification of conventional laying cages might provide a suitable alternative housing system which satisfies both welfare and production considerations.

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Accession: 002308887

DOI: 10.1016/0168-1591(92)90015-4

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