ifoam'96 ifoam'96
Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
EcoWeb Denmark


Hens: Optimizing an Outside-Run for Layers W20

Höfner, Marlene; Fölsch, Detlef W.

University of Kassel, Faculty of Agriculture, International Rural Development and Environmental Protection, Section: Farm Animal Behaviour and Management, D-37213 Witzenhausen

In the spring and summer of 1995 two investigations about laying hen's behaviour took place. The first one was based on the question how a treeless grassland (of about half an hectare) would develop when being pastured for the first time by ca. 1200 hybrid hens. Therefore, the development of plants on marked squares were documented over eight weeks as well as the general development of the greenland. The second work dealt with the behaviour of a small group of chickens (of different age and sex) in a richly structured garden area. Mainly the free choice of green food and berries was researched. In addition, observations of more or less preferred places for different behavioural patterns (like sun-/sandbathing, food intake etc.) were made. The purpose was to get clues about the needs of chicken. Supplemented by literature and practitioners` experiences it was possible to get hints how to optimize free-range areas for them that give natural food (plants, insects, worms), places to rest, shade and shelter from wind and birds of prey. But not only the chickens' requires have to be taken into consideration by designing an optimal free-range system. Also the farm management, the number of hens, form and size of the area, soil and climate and - last not least - financial, hygienical and ecological aspects are important. There are different ways to optimize a free-range-system. Mostly grassland is used as chickens' pasture, but also annual plants or mixed types are possible. Important is to structure the area. Ideally an area is used in a »multifunctional« way. By that both food and shelter for the chicken and additional use for other animals or humans can be reached. This way it is possible to get free-range poultry keeping more gainful for the farmer. The presentation shows examples for this.

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