Choice of perch characteristics by laying hens in cages with different group size and perching behaviours

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Dong-hua Chen, Jun Bao, Fan-yu Meng, Chun-bo Wei
Applied Animal Behaviour Science
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Provision of perches in cages could improve behaviour and physical conditions of laying hens. This study was conducted to investigate the choice of perch characteristics (shape, width, material and height) by caged hens under different group size, and to understand the choice by the perching behaviours of hens. This study was consisted of four trials: perch shape (rectangular and round in cross section), width (3.0 cm and 5.0 cm), material (steel, wood and plastic) and height (10 cm, 20 cm, 30 cm and 40 cm) tests. In each trial, 390 Hyline Brown laying hens were used and randomly allocated to three treatments: individual group (G1), group of four hens (G4), and group of eight hens (G8), respectively. There were 30 replicates in each group. The hens in G1, G4 and G8 groups were put in the test cages in which designed perches were simultaneously provided and tested after four habituating days. Hens’ behaviours were recorded using cameras at the following periods: 8:00–10:00; 14:00–16:00; 19:00–21:00 and 23:30–0:30 on the fifth and seventh day. The behaviours of the hens were analyzed, and the hens’ positions on test perches during mid-night were recorded. The results showed that, the rectangular perches were chosen more than round perches in all groups (p < 0.01), and comforting behaviour was performed more (p < 0.05) on the rectangular perches than on the round ones. The 3.0 cm wide perches were highly preferred to 5.0 cm perches in G1 and G4 groups (p < 0.05). The hens on the 5.0 cm wide perches performed more pecking (p < 0.01). Besides, the wood perches were chosen more than steel or plastic perches in all groups (p < 0.05). The hens chose 20 cm high perches most in G1 group and G4 groups (p < 0.05), but 10 cm high most in G8 groups (p < 0.01). The perching behaviour was significantly affected by perch height (p < 0.05). Besides, the frequency of jumping, pecking and comforting were significantly affected by group size (p < 0.05). Consequently, we recommend that the rectangular wood perches of 3.0 cm wide and 20 cm high may be suitable for the commercial furnished cages that the height is not lower than 100 cm.


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