Porous concrete block as an environmental enrichment device increases activity of laying hens in cages

A. Holcman*, G. Gorjanc, I. Stuhec

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to consider the influence of simple and cheap environmental enrichment such as porous concrete on the behavior of laying hens in conventional cages. Forty brown laying hens were housed in individual wire mesh cages: 20 in experimental cages with porous concrete block provided for pecking and 20 in a control group without concrete block provided. Porous concrete block (5 cm length x 5 cm width x 5 cm height) was mounted on the side wall at the height of the hen's head. Behavior was studied from 42 to 48 wk of age. A group of 8 hens was filmed for 24 h, and the camera was moved each day so that all 40 hens were recorded over 5 d each wk. Video-taping was performed in wk 1, 3, 5, and 7 of the experiment. States (long-term behavior) were observed with 5-min interval recording (feeding, preening, resting, and remaining inactive), whereas events (short-term activities) were observed with instantaneous recording (drinking, pecking concrete, pecking neighbors, pecking cage, and attempting to escape). Data were analyzed with generalized linear mixed model with binomial distribution for states, and Poisson distribution for events. Monte Carlo Markov Chain methods were used to estimate model parameters. Because posterior distributions of quantities of interest were skewed, medians and standard errors are reported. Hens in experimental cages were more active in long-term behavior than controls (64.9 +/- 1.9 and 59.3 +/- 1.9% of the light period, respectively). Correspondingly, hens in the control group showed more long-term inactivity. In addition to pecking the porous concrete block, hens in experimental cages also showed other short-term activities with greater frequency (4.10 +/- 0.31 and 3.51 +/- 0.25 events per h, respectively). Our hypothesis that hens in enriched cages would have a greater level of activity was confirmed. Provision of a piece of porous concrete block as a pecking substrate enriched the environment of the birds at negligible cost.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1714-1719
Number of pages6
JournalPoultry Science
Volume87
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008

Keywords

  • laying hen
  • behavior
  • cage
  • environmental enrichment
  • PECKING BEHAVIOR
  • BATTERY CAGES

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