Internal roosting location is associated with differential use of the outdoor range by free-range laying hens

Isabelle Pettersson, Claire Weeks, Kate Norman, Toby Knowles, Christine Nicol

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Abstract

1. In commercial free-range systems for laying hens, popholes to the outdoor range are often installed on one side of the house only. In multi-tier systems, it is possible that some individuals fail to access the range due to internal barriers to movement.

2. Five commercial multi-tier flocks from different units were studied. For each flock, two different colour markers were used to distinguish 200 birds roosting near the popholes (NP-Roost) and 200 birds roosting far from the popholes (FP-Roost) at night. The following day, counts of marked birds on the range and inside the house were performed.

3. Significantly more NP-Roost birds were observed in all areas of the outdoor range than FP-Roost birds the next day. Distance of FP area from the popholes was very strongly positively correlated with effect size in the adjacent range area.

4. Additionally, in the indoor area far from the popholes (FP) more FP-Roost birds were observed the next day than NP-Roost birds. In the indoor area near to the popholes (NP) more NP-Roost birds were observed the next day than FP-Roost birds.

5. These results suggest that roosting location is associated with differential range use when popholes are only available on one side of the shed as birds that roosted far from the popholes used the range less.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
JournalBritish Poultry Science
Early online date28 Nov 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Nov 2017

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Keywords

  • Welfare
  • Behaviour
  • Laying hens
  • Multi-tier
  • Aviary
  • Range use
  • Free range

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