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


Nestpreference in Hens in an Aviary

Fölsch, Detlef W.1; Bauer, Thomas,2

1) University of Kassel, Faculty of Agriculture, International Rural Development and Environmental Protection, Section: Farm Animal Behaviour and Management, D-37213 Witzenhausen; 2) Müggelschlöchenweg 48, D-12559 Berlin

In alternative keeping systems, especially in aviaries, hens differ in their acceptance of nests for egg laying. Eggs laid on the floor of the litter area or on the wire of the aviary system get dirty or broken and cannot be sold. Collecting them separately is time consuming and costly.Results from various studies indicate a change in nestpreference with increasing age of laying hens. This ontogeny was studied in the following experiment in an aviary under practical condition.The nest-choice / eggs laid per nest of 1.200 hens (ISA brown) was recorded weekly during the 19. - 52. week of age. A variety of total 16 different nests was offered:1. entrance with/without curtain.2. short/long distance to the aviary system.3. upper/lower row/level of nests.4. right/left side of the hen house.ad 1. There was no preference in the beginning between nests with or without a curtain in the entrance. Nests with curtain were increasingly preferred from the 23. week on.ad 2. Nests with greater distance were initially preferred, although decreasing until 33. week of age; from then on they were accepted equally to nests with short distance to the aviary system.ad 3. The initial preference of the upper nest-level decreased until 22. week of age and increased afterwards steadily compared to the lower level of nests.ad 4. The nests on the side without windows and without outlets were more preferred.The strongest changes in the development of some of the preferences occurred during 3. - 6. week of lay. This indicates an ontogeny of nest preference behaviour. The development of nestpreference of the hen when coming into lay is interpreted as a need for specific nest qualities. This has to be considered by offering adequate nests. This improves the housing quality for the hens, will minimize the amount of floor eggs and has economic advantages. - Examples are demonstrated.

Appleby, M. C. (1984): Factors affecting floor laying by domestic hens: a review. Worlds Poultry Science Journal 40, p. 241-249

Bauer, T. (1996): Ergebnisse von Untersuchungen zum Nestwahlverhalten von Legehennen in alternativen Haltungssystemen. Diss. agr., Humboldt-Universitõt Berlin

Rietveld-Piepers, B (1985): Nest-site selection: The influence of experiential factors: The significance of nest-examinations in the weeks before laying. Second European Symposium on Poultry Welfare. Report of Proceedings. Ed. Wegner, R.-M.; Institute of Poultry Research, Celle, p. 156-165