Housing layers in battery cages is a practice still used by many countries but it has been criticized because of its influence on behavioral repertoire of birds. We investigated whether simple and affordable enrichment devices alone impact behavior, foot condition and performance of laying hens housed in conventional cages. Hens were divided into plain cages (CON), cages with perches (PER), and cages with tassels and scratch-pads (ENR), and parameters were evaluated before and after enrichment placement. After perch placement inactivity, drinking and competition for space reduced 35.6%, 40.8% and 70.3%, respectively, whereas social interaction increased 19.3%. Both modifications decreased locomotion (75.0% and 42.4% for PER and ENR respectively) and abnormal behaviors (62.5% and 43.9.4% for PER and ENR respectively). None of the performance variables were affected by ENR or PER. Thermography was more efficient than visual inspection in detecting subclinical bumblefoot, and it confirmed that PER reduced subclinical and clinical cases. Our findings indicate that perches increased welfare-related behaviors and foot health of hens, supporting the use of these inexpensive and highly adaptable alternatives for the enrichment of battery cages.
|Publication Title||Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science|
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