Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2024Peer reviewedOpen access

Resource choice during ontogeny enhances both the short- and longer-term welfare of laying hen pullets

Holt, Regine Victoria; Skånberg, Lena; Keeling, Linda J.; Estevez, Inma; Newberry, Ruth C.


We hypothesised that resource choice during early life contributes to both current and longer-term beneficial effects on animal welfare. We investigated this hypothesis in a longitudinal cross-over experiment with laying hen pullets (Gallus gallus domesticus) reared in pens with one or four litter and perch types, respectively (n = 8 pens/treatment, all providing ample and identical litter and perch space). After 4 weeks (chick period), half the pens were modified to provide the opposite treatment (juvenile period). After 11 more weeks, all groups were moved to novel, identical laying pens (adult period; Week 16–27). In support of our hypothesis, the opportunity to choose between multiple litter and perch variants was associated with higher levels of positively-valenced behaviours, including play as chicks and dustbathing as juveniles and adults, and lower levels of negatively-valenced behaviours, including feather pecking as chicks and juveniles and aggressive pecking as adults. Resource choice in the juvenile period also led to better juvenile and adult plumage condition, and greater growth as adults. We conclude that the opportunity to choose among different litter and perch types, instead of having only one type of each, had both short- and longer-term positive effects on the birds’ affective states and physical condition.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2024, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: 3360