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Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,University of Bern | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Animals | Year: 2015

Numerous studies have demonstrated influences of hybrid, feed, and housing on prevalence of keel bone fractures, but influences of behavior and production on an individual level are less known. In this longitudinal study, 80 white and brown laying hens were regularly checked for keel bone deviations and fractures while egg production was individually monitored using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) from production until depopulation at 65 weeks of age. These focal birds were kept in eight pens with 20 hens per pen in total. About 62% of the hens had broken keel bones at depopulation. The occurrence of new fractures was temporally linked to egg laying: more new fractures occurred during the time when laying rates were highest. Hens with fractured keel bones at depopulation had laid their first egg earlier than hens with intact keel bones. However, the total number of eggs was neither correlated with the onset of egg laying nor with keel bone fractures. All birds with bumblefoot on both feet had a fracture at depopulation. Hens stayed in the nest for a longer time during egg laying during the ten days after the fracture than during the ten days before the fracture. In conclusion, a relationship between laying rates and keel bone fractures seems likely. © 2015 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


Andrist C.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | van den Borne B.H.P.,University of Bern | Bigler L.M.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Roth B.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Preventive Veterinary Medicine | Year: 2013

In Switzerland, group-housing for breeding rabbit does is not explicitly required by law, but label programmes, as well as the general public and animal welfare groups, are advocating it. Although group-housing is of great benefit to the gregariously living rabbits, the establishment of a social hierarchy within the group might lead to stress and lesions. In the present epidemiological study, lesions were scored twice on 30% of the breeding does on all 28 commercial Swiss farms with group-housed breeding does. Additionally, a detailed questionnaire was filled out with all producers to determine risk factors potentially associated with lesions. Data were analysed using hierarchical proportional odds models. About 33% of the does examined had lesions, including wounds that were almost healed and small scratches. Severe lesions were counted on 9% of the animals. Differences between seasons in lesions score were identified, with the extent of lesions being higher in summer than in spring. Fewer lesions occurred on farms on which mastitis was more common. More lesions were found on farms where the does were isolated between littering and artificial insemination than on farms without isolation. According to the producers, most of the aggression occurred directly after the isolation phase when the does were regrouped again. We conclude that lesions in group-housed breeding does might be reduced by appropriate reproductive management. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.


Graf S.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Bigler L.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Failing K.,Justus Liebig University | Wurbel H.,University of Bern | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

Regrouping female rabbits in group-housing systems is common management practice in rabbit breeding, which may, however, induce agonistic interactions resulting in social stress and severe injuries. Here we compared two methods of regrouping female rabbits with respect to their effects on behaviour, stress and injuries. Thus, we introduced two unfamiliar rabbits into a group of rabbits either in the group's familiar pen (HOME) or in a novel disinfected pen (NOVEL), and assessed the effects of these treatments on general activity, number and duration of agonistic interactions, number and severity of injuries and body temperature as a measure of stress. General activities were not affected by the method of regrouping. Also, treatment had no effect on the number and duration of agonistic interactions. However, the numbers of injuries (p= 0.030) as well as body temperature on the first day after regrouping (p= 0.0036) were increased in rabbits regrouped in a novel clean pen. These findings question the recommendation to introduce unfamiliar does into established groups in a neutral environment and indicate that regrouping in the group's home pen may decrease the risk of severe injuries and social stress. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,University of Bern | Toscano M.J.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Toscano M.J.,University of Bern | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2014

In studies assessing outdoor range use of laying hens, the number of hens seen on outdoor ranges is inversely correlated to flock size. The aim of this study was to assess individual ranging behavior on a covered (veranda) and an uncovered outdoor run (free-range) in laying hen flocks varying in size. Five to ten percent of hens (aged 9-15 months) within 4 small (2-2500 hens), 4 medium (5-6000), and 4 large (≥9000) commercial flocks were fitted with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Antennas were placed at both sides of all popholes between the house and the veranda and the veranda and the free-range. Ranging behavior was directly monitored for approximately three weeks in combination with hourly photographs of the free-range for the distribution of hens and 6. h long video recordings on two parts of the free-range during two days. Between 79 and 99% of the tagged hens were registered on the veranda at least once and between 47 and 90% were registered on the free-range at least once. There was no association between the percentage of hens registered outside the house (veranda or free-range) and flock size. However, individual hens in small and medium sized flocks visited the areas outside the house more frequently and spent more time there than hens from large flocks. Foraging behavior on the free-range was shown more frequently and for a longer duration by hens from small and medium sized flocks than by hens from large flocks. This difference in ranging behavior could account for the negative relationship between flock size and the number of hens seen outside at one point of time. In conclusion, our work describes individual birds' use of areas outside the house within large scale commercial egg production. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.


PubMed | Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits and University of Bern
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Animals : an open access journal from MDPI | Year: 2015

Numerous studies have demonstrated influences of hybrid, feed, and housing on prevalence of keel bone fractures, but influences of behavior and production on an individual level are less known. In this longitudinal study, 80 white and brown laying hens were regularly checked for keel bone deviations and fractures while egg production was individually monitored using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) from production until depopulation at 65 weeks of age. These focal birds were kept in eight pens with 20 hens per pen in total. About 62% of the hens had broken keel bones at depopulation. The occurrence of new fractures was temporally linked to egg laying: more new fractures occurred during the time when laying rates were highest. Hens with fractured keel bones at depopulation had laid their first egg earlier than hens with intact keel bones. However, the total number of eggs was neither correlated with the onset of egg laying nor with keel bone fractures. All birds with bumblefoot on both feet had a fracture at depopulation. Hens stayed in the nest for a longer time during egg laying during the ten days after the fracture than during the ten days before the fracture. In conclusion, a relationship between laying rates and keel bone fractures seems likely.


Stampfli K.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Roth B.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Poultry Science | Year: 2013

In aviary systems for laying hens, it is important to provide suitable nest access platforms in front of the nests, allowing hens to reach and explore each of the nests easily. This access platform is needed to achieve good nest acceptance by the hens and thereby prevent mislaid eggs. In the present experiment, the behavior of hens using 2 different nest access platforms, a plastic grid and 2 wooden perches, was examined. Furthermore, the nests were placed on both sides of the aviary rack (corridor side and outdoor side), either integrated into the aviary rack itself (integrated nest; IN) or placed on the walls of the pens (wall nest; WN), resulting in a 2 × 2 factorial design Four thousand five hundred white laying hens were housed in 20 test pens. The eggs in the nests and mislaid eggs were collected daily, and the behavior of hens on the nest accesses was filmed during wk 25 and 26, using focal observation and scan sampling methods. More balancing, body contact, and agonistic interactions were expected for nests with perches, whereas more walking and nest inspections were expected for nests with grids. There were more mislaid eggs and balancing found in pens equipped with nests with wooden perches. More agonistic interactions and balancing, less standing, and a longer duration of nest inspection were found with the WN compared with the IN. Interactions between platform design and position of the nests were found for duration of nest visits, body contact, and walking, with the highest amount for WN equipped with plastic grids. Nests on the corridor side were favored by the hens. Nest-related behaviors, such as nest inspection, standing, and walking, decreased over time as did the number of hens on the nest accesses, whereas sitting increased. These results indicate that the hens had more difficulties in gripping the perches as designed. The lower number of hens on the nest access platforms in front of IN may be due to a better distribution around nests and tier changes within the aviary rack. Based on these results, grids rather than perches provide for improved nesting behavior. © 2013 Poultry Science Association Inc.


Lentfer T.L.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | von Borell E.,Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

Low rates of nest acceptance by laying hens are a major problem in commercial poultry farming operations with aviary systems, leading to costly manual collection and cleaning of mislaid eggs. To gain knowledge about factors affecting nest use, laying hens' preferences for different nest locations were tested. Nests are normally installed at one of two sites: against a wall of the hen house or integrated into one tier of the aviary rack. The preferences of laying hens for different nest sites have never been examined under commercial conditions. The aim of this study is to investigate whether behavioural differences can be detected between the different nest sites. The study consists of two consecutive trials involving 5027 Lohmann Selected Leghorn hens (LSL) and 601 layer hybrids selected for extensive housing conditions (EXT). The hens were randomly assigned to eight compartments per trial in groups of 355-360 LSL or 300 EXT in a laying hen house. Four compartments were equipped with a Volito Voletage® aviary system (VV), and four were equipped with a Rihs Bolegg®II aviary system (RB), both of which contained either integrated or wall-placed nests when the experiments started. A strongly balanced crossover design with four periods was used. At 36, 44 and 52 weeks of age, the nest site in four out of the eight compartments was switched. Before each change, the fronts of half of the nests were videotaped during the light period, and the behaviour throughout the main laying period was analysed. Furthermore, the numbers of nest eggs and mislaid eggs in each compartment were recorded every day. No differences in the number of mislaid eggs between the two nest sites could be detected, except at the age of 20/21 weeks when hens in VV aviaries mislaid more eggs when nests were integrated (P =0.0012). More hens stood simultaneously in front of the integrated nests than in front of wall-placed nests (P=0.015). Activity of the laying hens increased (P=0.0073), and stationary behavioural patterns declined (P=0.0093), when the nests were placed by the wall. Hens inspected integrated nests for a longer duration than wall-placed nests, but wall-placed nests were visited more frequently. In addition to the nest site, the width of the platform in front of the nest influenced laying hen behaviour. Compared with narrower platforms, balance movements decreased on wider ones. Additionally, the platform design had to be taken into account as well, given that hens could not stand or walk as securely on wooden slats as on a grid floor. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.


Stampfli K.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Roth B.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
British Poultry Science | Year: 2012

1. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of front curtains, one-piece (OP) or sliced in stripes (SL), on the hens' nest preference and laying behaviour in an aviary system. We predicted that hens prefer SL-nests as they could perform nest inspections and enter and leave the nest along its whole width leading to fewer conflicts and more settled laying behaviour.2. Eight pens containing 20 White Leghorn laying hens were equipped with two roll-away nests, one with OP and one with SL curtains. Laying behaviour was recorded for two days at peak lay in weeks 25 and 26.3. More nest visits and more nest entries and exits along the whole width of the nest were counted in SL-nests. More sitting events without egg laying were performed in the OP-nests. No differences were found in the number of hens visiting the nests, egg number or aggressive behaviour.4. Hens appeared to value the seclusion and protection provided by a closed front curtain. However, sliced curtains provided more opportunities to perform nest inspections. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.


Lentfer T.L.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Gebhardt-Henrich S.G.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Von Borell E.,Martin Luther University of Halle Wittenberg
Poultry Science | Year: 2013

The influence of the nest location and the placement of nipple drinkers on nest use by laying hens in a commercial aviary was assessed. Twenty pens in a laying hen house were equipped with the same commercial aviary system, but the pens differed in the nest location and the placement of nipple drinkers. Nests were placed along the walls in 10 pens, and nipple drinkers were installed in front of the nests in 5 of these pens. The other 10 pens were equipped with nests placed on a tier within the aviary (integrated nests). Nipple drinkers were installed in front of the nests in 5 of these pens. A total of 225 Lohmann Selected Leghorns were housed per pen. The hens were offered 4 nests per pen: 2 facing the service corridor of the laying hen house and 2 facing the outdoor area. The numbers of nest eggs and mislaid eggs were counted daily per pen. At 25, 36, and 43 wk of age, the nest platforms were videotaped and the behavior of laying hens in front of the nests was analyzed. The nest location affected the stationary and locomotive behaviors in front of the nests. Hens in front of the integrated nests and the nests with drinkers displayed more stationary behaviors than hens in front of wall-placed nests or nests without drinkers. No difference in the number of nest eggs could be detected, but the integration of the nests inside the aviary led to a more even distribution of hens while nest searching. In the pens with wall-placed nests, significantly more hens laid eggs in the nests at the wall near the service corridor than at the wall near the outdoor area. Due to this imbalance, crowding in front of the preferred nests occurred and pushing and agonistic interactions on the nest platforms were significantly more frequent. Placement of nipple drinkers in front of nests had no effect on the number of eggs laid in those nests. ©2013 Poultry Science Association Inc.


Stampfli K.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Roth B.A.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Buchwalder T.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Frohlich E.K.F.,Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2011

Group nests in alternative housing systems for laying hens primarily fulfil the hen's needs for seclusion and protection. Commercial nests used in Switzerland are built according to the provisions of the Swiss Animal Welfare Legislation. However, nest types can differ in aspects, such as floor slope, that could have an impact on egg-laying behaviour. Floor slope has to be designed so that eggs roll away without breaking and so that hens feel comfortable laying their eggs. In commercial nests, the slope is usually between 12% and 18%. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of floor slope on the hen's nest preference and laying behaviour. We predicted that hens would prefer nests with a lower sloped floor for evolutionary reasons and for reasons related to comfort.Eight pens, each with 17-18 white laying hens (LSL), were equipped with two roll-away nests (0.54m2) having different floor slopes (12% and 18%). Eggs were collected each day (from approximately 20 weeks of age until 28 weeks of age); the number of eggs in each nest and on the floor of the pens was recorded. Behaviour inside the nest was filmed for two consecutive days during the main egg-laying time from the second hour to the fifth hour (4h) after lights came on in week 27/28. The following data were recorded: number of hens in each nest, the nest visits/egg number ratio, the number of sitting events, the body alignment of hens sitting in the nest and the number and duration of nest visits. Data were analysed with a repeated-measures ANOVA. There was no difference between the numbers of eggs in the two nests, but more hens were counted in nests with a 12% slope (p=0.027). The ratio between the number of nest visits and number of eggs did not differ significantly between the nests. However, we counted more sitting events in the nest with 12% slope (p=0.007). The percentage of body alignment towards the back (p=0.044) and towards the front (p=0.028) of the nest differed between the nests. Furthermore, for nest visits lasting between 10 and 90min, we found significant differences in the total number of nest visits (p=0.039). For visits in this range of duration, we also found significant differences for nest visits with sitting (p=0.025) and for the number of nest visits with egg laying (p=0.049). All of these differences favoured the 12% nest.Both nests were generally accepted by the hens. However, because of the higher number of hens counted in the 12% nest and the higher amounts of nest visits and sitting events found in these nests, we recommend to use nests with a floor slope of 12% rather than 18%. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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