Substrate preferences in laying hens

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We investigated the substrate preference of laying hens with respect to dustbathing and foraging behaviour, in order to determine which resources should be provided in laying hen housing systems for the expression of these behaviours. The consumer demand approach was used to study the strength of preference. Hens had to push a weighted door to enter choice pens with either a wire floor, sand, wood shavings or peat moss as substrate. Twelve Isa-Brown hens, reared on battery cages, successfully learned to open the push door. Most of the hens worked for getting access to all choice pens. The slopes of the demand curves for the number of entries to the choice pens were steep and not significantly different. Also no differences were found in the maximum price paid and the total expenditure. These data indicate that there seems to be no preference for wire or any substrate per se. However, with respect to dustbathing, almost all hens worked for getting access to peat moss to take a dustbath whereas only some hens worked for sand or wood shavings. The slope of the demand curve for dustbathing in peat moss was relatively shallow and the maximum price paid and the total expenditure to take a dustbath in peat moss were significantly higher as compared to dustbathing in sand or wood shavings. With respect to foraging no clear substrate preference was found. We conclude that the value of a particular substrate varies with the behaviour performed in the substrate and that there is a strong demand for peat moss for dustbathing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-152
JournalAnimal Science Papers and Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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