Nesting behaviour of broiler breeders

Anne van den Oever, T.B. Rodenburg, J.E. Bolhuis, L.J.F. van de Ven, B. Kemp

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract


Broilers have been selected for growth related characteristics, which are negatively correlated to reproductive traits. This genetic background creates challenges in broiler breeders, as the hens do not make optimal use of the nests provided leading to dirty and cracked eggs. Despite the economic importance of this problem, little research has been done on nesting behaviour in broiler breeders. This project aims to investigate which factors are involved in nest site selection of broiler breeder hens and to create practical improvements in housing design. The first experiment focuses on nest design preferences, where three alternatives to a standard nest will be offered to groups of hens. This preference will then be related to the personality traits sociability and fearfulness, measured with density related permanence and tonic immobility tests. The second experiment will compare two genetic strains on leg health and social interactions. The effect of introducing perches at an age of 20 weeks on leg health, measured by scoring for footpad dermatitis and gait, will be investigated. Leg health will furthermore be related to mobility, fertilisation and production. Social interactions amongst females and between females and males are expected to influence nest site selection as well. Dominant females might attract submissive females to certain nests, but can also prohibit submissive females access to the nests. Feral males are known to escort females to suitable nest sites, although it is unknown whether this holds true for domestic chickens. By scoring social interactions and nest site, these possible relations can be studied. A final field experiment will be conducted at a commercial farm, fitted with nests designed according to the preferences of the first experiment and with or without perches as proven optimal according to the second experiment. Productivity, fertilisation, leg health and behaviour will be recorded to measure the performance of this improved system.

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
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


Conference51st Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)


Dive into the research topics of 'Nesting behaviour of broiler breeders'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this