Use of perches and nestboxes by laying hens in relation to social status, based on examination of consistency of ranking orders and frequency of interaction

L. S. Cordiner, C. J. Savory*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Four groups of 15-19 adult ISA Brown hens were studied in pens to assess the relationship between social status and use of perches and nestboxes. This was to test the hypothesis that subordinate hens use these resources more by day, for avoiding dominants, but that dominants use perches more at night, for roosting. The experiment consisted of a 5-week pre-treatment period, when no perches were present, and a 4-week treatment period, when each group was tested with different perch treatments (No, Low, Medium, High). All groups were observed systematically in each week, when all interactions of three types (aggressive peck, non-aggressive peck, approach/avoidance) in a group were recorded by noting the instigator and recipient (from numbered wing tags) onto a matrix. Proportions of time that each bird spent using perches and nestboxes, by day and at night, were also recorded. The results indicate that social status of individual laying hens is relatively stable across time and can be based reliably on counts of either aggressive pecks or approach/avoidances, but not non-aggressive pecks. Aggressive pecks were the most frequent type of interaction observed, and were reduced by the presence of perches. Use of nestboxes, but not perches, was greater at night than by day. There were weak tendencies for perches, and to a lesser extent nestboxes, to be used more by lower ranking birds by day, but not at night. There was some evidence of increased use of these resources by higher ranking birds at night. It is concluded that provision of perches reduces bird density on the floor (where nearly all interactions occurred), allows subordinates a means of avoiding dominants by day, reduces frequency of agonistic interactions, and should thus benefit laying hen welfare.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-317
Number of pages13
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume71
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - 31 Mar 2001

Keywords

  • Agonistic interactions
  • Chicken-social behaviour
  • Nestbox
  • Perch
  • Ranking orders
  • Resource use
  • Welfare

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