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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Litter and perch type matter already from the start: exploring preferences and perch balance in laying hen chicks

Skånberg, Lena; Bramgaard Kjærsgaard Nielsen, Cecilie; Keeling, Linda

Abstract

Early chick environment, such as provision of litter and perches, can be a predictor of laying hen welfare. Inadequate or nonpreferred litter and perch types could have similar negative effects as those seen when not providing these resources at an early stage, such as increased feather pecking and cannibalism in adult flocks. However, suitable litter and perch types for chicks are not well explored. In the present project, 6 different types of litter (crushed straw pellets, hemp shavings, peat, sand, straw, wood shavings) and 6 different types of perches (narrow or wide forms of rope, flat or round wood) were presented in a controlled way (3 at a time) to chicks in 6 pens. Usage was compared in 93 chicks of Lohmann Selected Leghorn Classic divided across the pens, during their first 3 wk after hatch. Different litter types were seen to be preferred for different behaviors. The majority of dustbathing bouts occurred in sand and peat. Chicks foraged more in wood shavings, hemp shavings, and sand than in peat and pellets (P < 0.05). Perch width and shape were found to affect both usage and perch balance, measured as the probability of successful or problematic landings. The wide rope was generally used more during the first week (P < 0.05) and was used more for sleeping or resting (P < 0.05) than the other wide perch types. Furthermore, birds were more likely to land on the wide rope or on flat perches successfully than they were to have a problematic landing (P < 0.05). That birds were more likely to be observed preening on flat perches than on the potentially shaky rope perches could further reflect a sense of security. Our results suggest that presenting several litter types could better fulfill chicks' behavioral needs and that flat perches or a wide rope (4.5-cm diameter) could be appropriate perch types for laying hen chicks and thereby promote early perch use and training.

Keywords

laying hen chick; behavioral preference; litter; perch balance; perch design

Published in

Poultry Science
2021, volume: 100, number: 2, pages: 431-440

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health
Bramgaard Kjærsgaard Nielsen, Cecilie
No organisation
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

Publication Identifiers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psj.2020.11.041

URI (permanent link to this page)

https://res.slu.se/id/publ/109632