Author(s): Newberry RC, Estevez I, Keeling LJ
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Abstract To test the hypothesis that young domestic fowl perform less perch-related antipredator behaviour with increasing group size, White Leghorn pullets were reared in four replicate groups of 15, 30, 60 and 120 at a constant density of 5 birds/m(2). Each pen contained perches 20, 40 and 60cm above the ground. Perch space per bird per perch level was the same for all groups. It was predicted that, with increasing group size, domestic fowl would (1) spend less time on perches (i.e. more time down on the floor); (2) be less vigilant while perching; (3) spend relatively more time preening down on the floor. As predicted, the proportion of 3- to 18-week-old birds roosting on perches during scans throughout the photoperiod decreased with increasing group size, from 41+/-1.7\% in groups of 15 birds to 33+/-1.6\% in groups of 120 birds. This effect was due to reduced use of the lower perches; use of the highest perches was high at all group sizes. The proportion of birds vigilant on the highest perches of those present on that perch level decreased with increasing group size. The proportion of birds engaged in the vulnerable activity of preening down on the floor increased with group size. The frequency of transitions between floor and perches was not affected by group size but birds received more disturbances from other birds when on the top perch level in the larger groups. Thus, the decline in vigilance on the top perch level with increasing group size was not due to reduced disturbance from other birds. In conclusion, despite domestication and protection from non-human predators, changes in the use of perches by young domestic fowl with increasing group size were consistent with the antipredator hypothesis.
This article was published in Appl Anim Behav Sci
and referenced in Journal of Veterinary Science & Technology