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The Significance of Fowls' Bathing in Dust

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Dustbathing in fowls (eg chickens, Gallus gallus) consists of tossing the litter onto and between the fluffed feathers and subsequently enclosing it by flattening the feathers. The proximal contact between litters like sand and peat, and the integument is intensified by rubbing the body. This is not the case in wood-shavings which adhere to the distal plumage after tossing; rubbings in wood-shavings are frequently interrupted by reinitiated tossings. Lipids accumulate on the feathers and become stale during dust deprivation. Only baths in sand and peat are effective in removing excessive lipids from the proximal downy feather parts. Fluffiness of the down is highest in hens on peat, intermediate on sand and lowest on wood-shavings, while the reverse is true for the plumage surface temperature of the back. Hens monitor the integumental lipid condition which becomes causally connected with bathing in the course of experiencing litter bathing effects. It is shown from the author's experimental study that hens naive of bathing in litter, and hens experienced with wood-shavings initially shifted bathing litters but finally preferred peat or sand (in that order) when peat, sand and wood-shavings were simultaneously presented Most of the hens experienced with bathing in sand did not shift to another substrate when presented with one. Recommendations are given concerning adequate dustbathing litter. A chronic deprivation of adequate litter leads to an uncontrollable condition of the lipids on the integument and an abnormal development of dustbathing. Such a deprivation therefore reduces animal welfare. Moreover, it is suggested to be costly.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 August 1992

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