Laying hen behavior. 1. Effects of cage type and startle stimuli

J. J. Elston, M. M. Beck, S. D. Kachman, S. E. Scheideler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations

Abstract

The well-being of commercial laying hens plays an important role in egg production. Behaviors such as pacing, displaced preening, increased aggression, and redirected activities have been associated with stress in poultry. This study was conducted to determine whether two strains of commercial layers, reported to differ in level of excitability, behave differently in two types of commercial cages. DeKalb Delta and Hy-Line W36 hens, 40 to 45 wk of age, were housed six to eight per cage in open or solid-sided cages, at an equal density between cages. For each strain, there were six cages per cage type for a total of 24 cages. In the first five experiments, behavioral data were obtained at a distance of 1 m by instantaneous or scan sampling. These experiments included hen behavior in both types of cages with and without the presence of frustrating or startle conditions. Some significant differences in behavior existed within experiments but not consistently among all experiments. Sampling method did not affect reliability of data collection. Two trials were then conducted to determine whether the length of time to return to normal activity after a startle stimulus is influenced by the cage type or strain. In the first startle experiment, DeKalb hens returned to normal activity more quickly than did Hy-Line hens (P = 0.07); this strain difference was not found when the experiment was repeated. Cage type did not appear to affect the behavior of birds adversely, although neither cage type appeared to confer an advantage. No clear differences were found in behavior by strain or by strain within cage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-476
Number of pages6
JournalPoultry science
Volume79
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2000

Keywords

  • Behavior
  • Cage type
  • Laying hens
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology

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