Pullet Rearing Affects Collisions and Perch Use in Enriched Colony Cage Layer Housing

Animals (Basel). 2020 Jul 25;10(8):1269. doi: 10.3390/ani10081269.


Hens reared in aviaries (AVI) as pullets have improved spatial abilities compared to hens reared in non-enriched cages (CON). However, this effect on behavior has been shown only to 23 weeks of age. Lohmann LSL-Lite hens were reared in either CON or AVI until 19 weeks of age and then moved into enriched colony cages (ECC) containing two elevated perches of different heights (n = 6 ECC/treatment). Focal hens (3 per ECC) were fitted with tri-axial accelerometers to record acceleration events at 21, 35, and 49 weeks of age. Video recordings from each age were used to identify behaviors associated with acceleration events as well as the proportion of hens utilizing perches. CON hens experienced more acceleration events (p = 0.008) and more collisions (p = 0.04) than AVI hens during the day at 21 and 35 weeks of age. The total proportion of hens perching at night was similar between treatments across most time points, but fewer CON hens used the high perch compared to AVI hens throughout the study (p = < 0.001). Rearing in aviaries influences hen behavior out to peak lay for collisions and out to mid-lay for perch height preference in ECC.

Keywords: accelerometer; aviary; behavior; cage; collision; laying hen; perch; pullet; rearing.