Does rearing laying hens in aviaries adversely affect long-term welfare following transfer to furnished cages?

Fernanda M. Tahamtani*, Tone Beate Hansen, Rachel Orritt, Christine Nicol, Randi O. Moe, Andrew M. Janczak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


This study tests the hypothesis that hens that are reared in aviaries but produce in furnished cages experience poorer welfare in production than hens reared in caged systems. This hypothesis is based on the suggestion that the spatial restriction associated with the transfer from aviaries to cages results in frustration or stress for the aviary reared birds. To assess the difference in welfare between aviary and cage reared hens in production, non-beak trimmed white leghorn birds from both rearing backgrounds were filmed at a commercial farm that used furnished cage housing. The videos were taken at 19 and 21 weeks of age, following the birds' transition to the production environment at 16 weeks. Videos were analysed in terms of the performance of aversion-related behaviour in undisturbed birds, comfort behaviour in undisturbed birds, and alert behaviour directed to a novel object in the home cage. A decrease in the performance of the former behaviour and increase in the performance of the latter two behaviours indicates improved welfare. The results showed that aviary reared birds performed more alert behaviour near to the object than did cage reared birds at 19 but not at 21 weeks of age (P < 0.03). Blood glucose concentrations did not differ between the treatments (P.0.10). There was a significant difference in mortality between treatments (P = 0.000), with more death in aviary reared birds (5.52%) compared to cage birds (2.48%). The higher mortality of aviary-reared birds indicates a negative effect of aviary rearing on bird welfare, whereas the higher duration of alert behavior suggests a positive effect of aviary rearing.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere107357
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2014


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