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Non-exclusive spatial preference in the laying hen

By C. J. Nicol

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When 12 hens were given a choice between four cages differing in size and shape, they spent most time in the cage with the largest floor area, but substantial amounts of time were spent in the remaining three cages. Eight possible explanations for this non-exclusive choice are proposed: variation among hens; change of preference with time; mis-identification; constraints on decision-making; pacing; sampling; monitoring; genuine preference. The first six hypotheses are discussed with respect to this experiment. A second experiment, using 6 hens under similar conditions, was designed to distinguish between the latter two hypotheses. The results suggest there may be a monitoring component to the hens' behaviour in this apparatus, characterised by cage visits of short duration. In addition, the hens may continue to visit small cages in order to perform particular behaviour patterns; nest-building behaviour is one possibility.

Date 1986
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 15
Issue 4
Pages 337-350
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Anim. Behaviour Res. Group, Dep. Zool., Univ., Oxford, UK.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Birds
  5. Cages
  6. Chickens
  7. Farms
  8. Fowls
  9. Husbandry
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Poultry
  12. size
  1. peer-reviewed