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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Safeguarding Well-being of Food Producing Animals

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Title: The effect of perch availability during pullet rearing and egg laying on the behavior of caged White Leghorn hens

Authors
item Hester, P -
item Garner, J -
item Enneking, S -
item Cheng, Heng Wei
item Einstein, M -

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 28, 2014
Publication Date: October 1, 2014
Citation: Hester, P.Y., Garner, J.P., Enneking, S.A., Cheng, H., Einstein, M.E. 2014. The effect of perch availability during pullet rearing and egg laying on the behavior of caged White Leghorn hens. Poultry Science. 93(10):2423-2431.

Interpretive Summary: Enriched cages allow egg laying strains of chickens to meet some behavioral needs, including the high motivation to perch. Little is known about the accumulated influence of perch usage during the pullet phase on eating and drinking activates of laying hens. The objective of this study was to determine if perch availability during rearing affected perch use as adults and if perch presence affected eating and drinking in caged White Leghorn hens. Results showed that a greater proportion of hens without perches as pullets used the rear perch more during both photophase and scotophase than hens with prior pullet perching experience. Eating and drinking activities of caged adult Leghorns were not impaired by their prior experience to perches as pullets or by the presence of perches in laying cages. These data suggested that providing perches in cages to White Leghorns during pullet rearing did not facilitate use of perches as adults. These results can be used by egg producers to develop management guidelines for improving pullet and hen welfare by providing perches.

Technical Abstract: Enriched cages, compared to conventional cages, allow egg laying strains of chickens to meet some behavioral needs, including the high motivation to perch. The objective of this study was to determine if perch availability during rearing affected perch use as adults and if perch presence affected eating and drinking in caged White Leghorn hens. Chickens were assigned to 14 cages each with and without 2 round metal perches from hatch to 16.9 wk of age. At 17 wk of age, pullets were assigned to laying cages consisting of 1 of 4 treatments: Treatment 1 chickens never had access to perches (controls). Treatment 2 chickens only had access to 2 round metal perches during the laying phase (17 to 71 wk of age). Treatment 3 chickens only had access to 2 round perches during the pullet phase (0 to 16.9 wk of age). Treatment 4 chickens had access to the perches during both the pullet and laying phase. Each treatment during the adult phase consisted of 9 cages with 9 birds/cage for a total of 36 cages. Automatic infrared cameras were used to monitor behavior of hens in each cage for a 24 h period at 19, 24, 29, 34, 39, 44, 49, 54, 59, 64, and 69 wk of age. Behavior was also recorded biweekly by an observer in the room where the hens were housed during photophase from 25 to 68 wk of age. Behavioral data were analyzed using ANOVA with repeated measures and the MIXED model procedure. A greater proportion of hens without perches as pullets used the rear perch more during both photophase and scotophase than hens with prior pullet perching experience. Eating and drinking activities of caged adult Leghorns were not impaired by their prior experience to perches as pullets or by the presence of perches in laying cages. It is concluded that providing perches in cages to White Leghorns during pullet rearing did not facilitate use of perches as adults

Last Modified: 11/23/2014
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