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Pecking at string by individually caged, adult laying hens: colour preferences and their stability

By R. B. Jones, N. L. Carmichael

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The responses of 45-week-old, individually caged laying hens (n=24) to differently coloured (white, yellow, orange, blue) bunches of string, presented singly on consecutive days, were examined. This procedure was repeated at 51 weeks of age in order to assess the stability of observed preferences. Preference was defined as the tendency to orient more towards and to peck more at string of 1 particular colour than of the 3 other colours. The hens showed clear colour preferences. White or yellow bunches of string elicited more approach and were pecked significantly more readily and frequently than the orange or blue ones in both trials. In a second experiment, the pecking responses of previously untested hens (n=13) were compared when the 2 devices identified as the most (white) and the least (blue) attractive in the first experiment were presented simultaneously at each of 2 ages (80 and 86 weeks). Significantly more pecking was again directed at the white rather than the blue string in both trials. Though some birds shifted preference across trials, the collective stability of the observed preferences was demonstrated by the fact that similar findings were obtained in each of the 2 trials carried out at intervals of 6 weeks in each of the 2 experiments. It is suggested that continued studies in this area may guide the development of environmental enrichment procedures and/or devices intended to divert potentially injurious pecking away from other birds.

Date 1998
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 60
Issue 1
Pages 11-23
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Roslin Institute (Edinburgh), Division of Environment and Welfare, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9PS, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animal rights
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Birds
  6. Chickens
  7. Color
  8. Egg production
  9. Fowls
  10. pecking
  11. peer-reviewed
  12. Poultry
  1. peer-reviewed