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Nest sharing under semi-natural conditions in laying hens

By Anja Brinch Riber

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Under natural conditions, the feral hen (Gallus gallus domesticus) will choose a nest location away from the flock, whereas under commercial conditions, the domestic hen will often choose the same nest as other hens have used or are still using. Simultaneous nest sharing causes several welfare problems to laying hens, and egg production may also be negatively affected. Understanding what causes this difference in nest location selection may provide solutions to the problems associated with simultaneous nest sharing. The aims were to investigate whether a commercial strain of laying hens normally housed in intensive production systems share nests under semi-natural conditions and to describe the behaviour if this behaviour occurred. Twenty 15 weeks old hens were released into an 840m2 enclosure with multiple options for natural and semi-natural nest sites. Over a 63-day period records were made daily of each nest with regard to number of eggs, position, and materials used. On five mornings nesting behaviour was observed. Nest sharing occurred on all but the first 5 days of egg-laying. The majority of hens (n=14) chose to visit an occupied nest at least once, but no hens exclusively used occupied nests. Visits in shared nests lasted longer than visits in undisturbed nests (13min 50s (±4min and 57s) vs 30min 44s (±4min and 55s); P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 136
Issue 1
Pages 44-49
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.11.006
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Birds
  2. Environment
  3. Genetic manipulation
  4. Habitats
  5. nesting
  6. nests