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The effects of novel floorings on dustbathing, pecking and scratching behaviour of caged hens

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Abstract:

From the year 2012, conventional battery cages for laying hens will be banned under the European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC. Enriched cages, which include a perch, a nest area, and a pecking and scratching area will not be banned, and have certain advantages over other systems of egg production. Previous studies have shown that even when a pecking and scratching area is provided, most dustbathing occurs on the wire floor as sham dustbathing. This study investigated whether novel cage floor types could stimulate full expression of dustbathing behaviour, similar to that seen on loose litter. One hundred and forty four hens were housed in pairs in non-commercial enriched cages that differed only in that they contained one of four randomly allocated floor types. Floor types were conventional wire ('wire'), wood shavings ('litter'), conventional wire wrapped with garden twine ('string') and perforated rubber matting ('rubber'). Birds on litter or rubber performed fewer bouts of dustbathing than those on wire and string. However, bouts on litter were longer than those on the three other floor types. Overall, birds on litter or string showed a greater total duration of dustbathing than those on rubber, and birds on litter had a richer repertoire of dustbathing elements. Birds on litter performed significantly more pecking and scratching than those on string or rubber, which did not differ from those on wire. Birds on rubber and litter had poorer foot and feather condition than those on wire or string. Altering the cage floor produced minor changes in behaviour, and further novel floor types should be evaluated.

Keywords: ANIMAL WELFARE; DUSTBATHING; LAYING HENS; NOVEL FLOORING; PECKING; SCRATCHING

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2005-08-01

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