Can minor, easily applied alterations of routines during the rearing period reduce fearfulness in adult laying hens?

Margrethe Brantsæter, Fernanda M. Tahamtani, J. Nordgreen, Ellen Sandberg, Tone Beate Hansen, T.B. Rodenburg, Randi Oppermann Moe, A.M. Janczak

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract

Abstract

Exaggerated fear-reactions are associated with injuries, smothering, feather pecking and other events that compromise laying hen welfare. Provision of litter during the rearing period may reduce fearfulness. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that chicks with access to litter during the first five weeks of life would be less fearful as adults compared to birds reared without access to litter. The hypothesis was tested in 23 commercial aviary layer flocks in Norway. Five rearing farmers divided the pullets into two groups within their rearing houses. During the first five weeks of life, paper substrate, on which food and other particles could accumulate, covered the wire mesh floor in the treatment group, whereas the control group was reared on bare wire mesh. The egg producers were instructed to follow their normal management procedures. At 30 weeks of age, 23 layer flocks (11 control flocks and 12 paper reared flocks) were visited. A stationary person test and a novel object test were conducted to test fearfulness of the adult hens. In addition, data on provision of environmental enrichment was collected as a binary yes/no variable. Provision of environmental enrichment to adult birds tended to reduce the latency to approach within 2 m of the stationary person (P=0.08). For birds without environmental enrichment as adults, access to litter during rearing increased the number of birds that approached the novel object compared with birds reared without paper (P=0.04). For birds with access to environmental enrichment during production, the access to litter during rearing had no effect on the number of birds that approached the novel object as adult (P=0.99). These results indicate that both providing chicks with paper substrate from the first day of life and providing them with environmental enrichment as adults, are practical and simple alterations of management that reduce fearfulness in laying hens.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 51st Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE), 7-10 August 2017, Aarhus, Denmark
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding animal behaviour
EditorsMargit Bak Jensen, Mette S. Herskin, Jens Malmkvist
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Pages198-198
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868582
ISBN (Print)9789086863112
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event51st Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE): Understanding animal behavour - Aarhus, Denmark
Duration: 7 Aug 201710 Aug 2017

Conference

Conference51st Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)
CountryDenmark
CityAarhus
Period7/08/1710/08/17

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