Resting on perches is an important behaviour for laying hens. However, perches in laying hen husbandry systems are associated with health problems which may result from inadequate perch designs. The aim of this study was to focus on particular behavioural patterns shown by laying hens on different perches during night-time in order to test whether perching behaviour may provide information on the suitability of a particular perch design. A total of 60 Lohmann Selected Leghorn hens were kept in six compartments over two identical trials. Hens were randomly offered nine round perches, which differed in material (wood, steel, rubber cover) and diameter (27, 34, 45 mm) for one week each. Duration of resting, standing, preening and frequencies of balance movements and comfort behaviours shown by individual hens on each perch were recorded throughout one night (10.5 h) on day six of each observation week. Balance movements decreased with increasing perch diameter (P<0.001) and appeared less on rubber perches compared to wood and steel (P<0.05). On steel perches, hens rested longer with their heads tucked backwards into their feathers (P<0.001) and less with their heads forward with neck pulled back compared to wood and rubber perches (P<0.001) irrespective of perch diameter. Standing was shown less often on steel compared to wood or rubber perches (P<0.001). Our data provide evidence that a detailed analysis of hens' perching behaviour can give important information on the suitability of a perch design related to diameter and material. In this context, balance movements may be the most sensitive indicator of the suitability of a perch design with respect to stable footing on perch, whereas resting position and standing on perches are likely to be related to thermoregulatory adjustment in behaviour.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Doernbergstrasse 25/27, 29223 Celle, Germany. firstname.lastname@example.org|
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