In laying hens, behavioral responses measured late in the laying period are associated with decreased performance. If measured early in the laying period, these behavioral responses could be used to predict performance later in life. The main objective of the present study was to investigate the association of the behavioral response toward a novel object at 23 wk of age with subsequent performance during the laying period. A total of 1,251 hens from 6 different pure-bred Rhode Island Red lines (208 hens per line on average) were housed in 318 cages (56 cages per line on average). Performance variables included egg production (both per hen-present and hen-housed); BW at 19, 51, and 69 wk of age; mortality; and feather damage at 63 wk. Hens from cages with an approach response realized greater total egg production (hen-day and hen-housed) and greater egg production in the middle (hen-housed) and end of the laying period (per hen present and hen housed) compared with hens from cages with a passive response toward the novel object. Approach responses were also associated with more feather damage, but not with BW or mortality. Low correlations were found between greater egg production and more feather damage. These results suggest that an approach response toward a novel object measured early in the laying period is associated with better performance later in the laying period. The novel object test early in the laying period can be used to predict subsequent performance, although possible causal mechanisms for this association remain to be investigated.
- t-maze behavior
- genetic stocks