Author(s): Struelens E, Tuyttens FA, Duchateau L, Leroy T, Cox M,
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Abstract 1. The objective was to investigate the effect of cage height on perch height preference and perching behaviour in laying hens. Twelve groups of two hens and 12 groups of 14 hens were tested in furnished cages equipped with two wooden perches. These stepwise perches were designed such that hens could choose between 7 different heights (6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31 and 36 cm). Day- and night-time perching behaviour was observed on 4 consecutive days with a different cage height each day: 150, 55, 50 and 45 cm. 2. Given that a minimum perch-roof distance of 19 to 24 cm was available, hens preferred to roost on the highest perches at night. 3. Lowering cage height not only forced hens to use lower perches, but also reduced time spent on the perches during the day (two-hen and 14-hen test) and night (14-hen test). Moreover, it affected daytime behavioural activities (more standing and less preening) on the perches in the two-hen tests (but not in the 14-hen tests). 4. During the day lower perches were used more for standing and walking, higher perches more for sitting and sleeping. This behavioural differentiation was most pronounced in the highest cages. 5. Perch preference and perching behaviour depend on both the floor-perch distance and the perch-roof distance. Higher cages provide more opportunity for higher perches (which hens prefer), for better three-dimensional spacing (and consequently reduced density at floor level) and for behavioural differentiation according to perch height.
This article was published in Br Poult Sci
and referenced in Journal of Veterinary Science & Technology