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Effect of heterogeneity of nest boxes on occurrence of gregarious nesting in laying hens

By Tina Clausen, Anja Brinch Riber

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Abstract

Gregarious nesting, where hens select already occupied nest boxes even when other nest boxes are unoccupied, is an unwanted behaviour in laying hens that may reduce animal welfare and pose a financial cost to the producer. It has been suggested that gregarious nesting is caused by the difficulties experienced by hens in distinguishing between nest boxes in long rows of identical boxes. Heterogeneity of nest boxes has therefore been suggested as a method to reduce gregarious nesting. To test this hypothesis two experiments were performed. Twelve groups of 13–15 ISA Warren hens 27 weeks of age were housed in pens with three adjacent nest boxes. In the first experiment six experimental groups were provided with three different appearing nest boxes (yellow walls, plastic flaps, standard) containing wood-shavings, and in the second experiment six experimental groups were provided with three different nesting materials (straw, peat, wood-shavings). In both experiments six control groups were provided with three identical nest boxes containing wood-shavings. Daily egg collection and video recordings were performed during both experiments (eight and seven days, respectively). The proportion of gregarious nesting was higher in experimental groups compared to control groups (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 142
Issue 3
Pages 168-175
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.10.005
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Tags
  1. nesting
  2. preferences