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Ability of laying hens to jump between perches: individual variation and the effects of perch separation and motivation on behaviour

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1. This study investigated the ability and the behaviour of laying hens jumping between perches 2 different distances apart using hungry and satiated birds to determine whether behaviour and success were related to motivation. 2. Four groups of 10 birds (Lohmann brown) trained to jump from one perch to another were subjected 4 times to each of the experimental treatments (2 perches with a distance of either 50 or 150 cm between them) whilst either hungry or satiated, controlling for time of day and order of presentation. 3. The behaviour of each bird on the 1st perch was observed for a maximum of 2 min or until the bird jumped from the perch. The outcome of each jump, number of head movements and steps, incidence and duration of calling, and activity score were recorded. 4. The probability of birds jumping was less at the greater distance and was not affected significantly by other experimental factors. 5. Head movements were more frequent in birds which jumped, at the shorter distance, in motivated (hungry) birds and in the morning rather than the afternoon. 6. More stepping was performed by birds which jumped and at the shorter distance; there was no significant effect of motivation or time of day on stepping rate. 7. Birds called more at the greater distance and this was interpreted as indicative of frustration. 8. Subjective scores for activity were lower when perches were separated by the greater distance and when birds were satiated (less motivated) rather than hungry. 9. Agitated head movements and stepping activity thus occurred mainly when birds were motivated and on the point of jumping whereas calling was associated with an apparent inability or unwillingness to jump.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 1999

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