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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2006

Development of perching behaviour in chicks reared in enriched environment

Heikkila M, Wichman A, Gunnarsson S, Valros A


Behaviour problems, such as feather pecking and cannibalism, in loose housing systems for laying hens may originate from the rearing period. Early access to perches facilitates the use of three-dimensional space and therefore allows escape from threatening pen mates. In this experiment, we studied individual differences in start of perching behaviour and if environmental enrichment enhances perching at an early age. Ninety LSL-chicks were divided into three treatments: (A) control, (B) floor enrichment (four wooden blocks on the floor) and (C) hanging enrichment (four objects hanging from the roof). The behaviour of the chicks was observed directly for 6 weeks, 12 times a day. We found a positive relation between the perching latency and the time spent under the perches (p = 0.01) and a negative relation between the perching latency and interacting with other chicks (p < 0.01). We also found a positive relation between the perching latency and the night-time perch use early in chicks' life (p = 0.02). There were no significant differences between the treatments on perching latency (p = 0.21). It is concluded that there seems to be an association between the early start of perch use and the later use of perches for the real night-time roosting. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved


chicken welfare; perching behaviour; enrichment; ontogeny

Published in

Applied Animal Behaviour Science
2006, Volume: 99, number: 1-2, pages: 145-156