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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Comparison of Behavioral Time Budget and Welfare Indicators in Two Local Laying Hen Genotypes (Atak-S and Atabey) in a Free-Range System

Soezcue, Arda; Ipek, Aydin; Oguz, Zueleyha; Gunnarsson, Stefan; Riber, Anja B.


Simple Summary It is known that laying hens kept in cage systems without access to enrichment have more welfare and behavioral problems. Therefore, alternative systems for egg production have gained popularity, e.g., free-range and organic systems, as they improve the birds' possibilities to perform important specific behavior and thereby increase the welfare conditions in commercial farms. This study aimed to compare of the behaviors and welfare of two layer genotypes used in Turkey, Atak-S (brown) and Atabey (white), in a free-range system from 19 to 72 weeks of age. We evaluated multiple welfare indicators, including behavioral time budget, fear level, plumage condition, keel bone damage, and other body lesions. The birds were scored at 24, 40, 56, and 72 weeks of age. The Atabey hens showed more preening, walking-standing, and resting behavior, and they had a longer duration of tonic immobility. The Atak-S hens tended to perform more feather pecking and explorative pecking, and they had more foot lesions, plumage damage, skin injuries, and keel bone damages. Current results can be beneficial for the choice of genotype to use in free-range systems. Free-range systems are considered to improve bird health and welfare, thereby satisfying consumer demands. Behavioral time budget, fear level and clinical welfare indicators were compared for two Turkish laying hen genotypes, Atak-S (brown) and Atabey (white), reared in a free-range system. A total of 420 laying hens (210 Atak-S, 210 Atabey) were studied between 19 and 72 weeks of age. Higher percentages of eating and drinking behavior, feather pecking, and explorative pecking were observed for Atak-S hens, whereas Atabey hens were preening, walking-standing, and resting more. The duration of tonic immobility was longer, and the number of inductions was lower in Atabey compared with Atak-S hens. Atabey hens had less keel bone damages and better plumage conditions on the breast, wing, and tail at 56 and 72 weeks of age than Atak-S hens. Footpad dermatitis was more common in Atabey hens at 40 weeks, whereas Atak-S hens had a higher prevalence of footpad dermatitis with moderate lesions at 72 weeks of age. These findings indicate that free-range Atak-S hens may be more prone to keel bone damage and development of feather pecking, but they showed less foot lesions and were less fearful.


behavior; dermatitis; free range; genotype; keel bone damage; welfare

Published in

2022, Volume: 12, number: 1, article number: 46
Publisher: MDPI