The effects of furnished cages on the behaviour of laying hens in the post-stress adaptation period

Erdal Matur1* Elif Ergul Ekiz1 İbrahim Akyazı1 Evren Eraslan1 Ezgi Ergen1, Mert Erek1 Bilge Acar Polat2, Mukaddes Özcan1

1.Istanbul University, Veterinary Faculty, Department of Pathology, Avcilar, Istanbul.
2.Istanbul University, Veterinary Faculty, Department of Physiology, Avcilar, Istanbul.

*Erdal Matur: 
05.12.2017,  Accepted: 28.12.2017,  Available online: 29.12.2017

The aim of the study is to investigate whether housing laying hens in furnished cages in post-stress adaptation period causes any changes in behaviors or not. Due to the affects of animal welfare on production performance, the relationship between behavioral changes and egg production has also been studied. In the present study, 22 weeks old, 32 laying hens were used. The hens were subjected to transport. The transport procedure, including loading and unloading took 8 hours. Just after the transportation, birds were randomly divided into two groups as furnished and conventional cages; each consists of two subgroups with 8 hens. It was ensured that the hens in subgroups were unfamiliar with each other to induce social stress. On the top of each cage, a camera was fixed and continuous recording was done for 24 hours for 6 days. The behavior of animals was scored by time sampling method. Eating, drinking, resting, preening, wing flapping, tail-wagging, stretching, ground-scratching, gentle pecking, stereotyped and aggressive pecking behaviors were scored. In addition, the locations of the hens were also determined in furnished cages. Frequency of eating, drinking and ground-scratching behaviours significantly increased, but tail-wagging behaviour tended to increase in hens housed in furnished cages. On the other hand, resting, stretching and aggressive pecking behaviours significantly decreased in hens housed in furnished cages. In addition, the use of perch and nest rate in furnished cages significantly increased from the second day. In the conclusion, cage furnishing improves some comfort behaviour such as ground-scratching and tail wagging and decreasing aggressive pecking in laying hens. Therefore, it would be beneficial to keep stress-exposed hens in furnished cages in the post-stress adaptation period. 
Keywords: laying hens, cage furnishing, animal welfare, behaviour, stress