Author(s): Campbell DL, Makagon MM, Swanson JC, Siegford JM
Abstract Share this page
Abstract Non-cage housing systems, such as the aviary, are being implemented by the laying hen industry, including in North America, in an attempt to improve the welfare of hens. Perches are a resource that is consistently included in aviaries. Hens are strongly motivated to perch, and perching can improve leg bone strength. However, hens may prefer elevated perches, particularly at night, and thus simply providing perches is not enough to improve welfare; they must be provided in a way that allows all hens to access them. Observations of laying hens using perches and ledges (flat, solid metal shelves to assist hens' movement between tiers) in a commercial aviary revealed variation in where hens roosted within the tiered aviary enclosure across the flock cycle (peak, mid and end of lay; P < 0.001 for all age points). Hens most often preferred roosting in the highest enclosure levels, leading to crowding on upper perches and ledges while perch space remained available on lower levels. Restricted access to preferable perches may cause frustration in hens, leading to welfare issues. Hens roosted more on perches at peak lay than mid and end lay (P < 0.001) but roosted less on ledges at peak lay than mid and end lay (P < 0.001). Additionally, more hens roosted on both perches and ledges in the 'dark' observation period compared with the number of hens roosting during the 'light' observation period (P < 0.001). Further research should look at all structural elements within the system that are used by hens for roosting, such as edges of tiers and upper wire floors, to evaluate how changes in perching preferences across the lay cycle may correlate with system design and bird-based parameters. © The Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Poultry Science Association.
This article was published in Poult Sci
and referenced in Journal of Veterinary Science & Technology