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Friedrich-Wilhelm-Lübke-Koog, Germany

Stratmann A.,University of Bern | Frohlich E.K.F.,Research Center for Proper Housing Poultry and Rabbits | Harlander-Matauschek A.,University of Guelph | Schrader L.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry | And 3 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2015

Keel bone fractures and deviations are one of the major welfare and health issues in commercial laying hens. In non-cage housing systems like aviaries, falls and collisions with perches and other parts of the housing system are assumed to be one of the main causes for the high incidence of keel bone damage. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effectiveness of a soft perch material to reduce keel bone fractures and deviations in white (Dekalb White) and brown laying hens (ISA Brown) kept in an aviary system under commercial conditions. In half of 20 pens, all hard, metal perches were covered with a soft polyurethane material. Palpation of 20 hens per pen was conducted at 18, 21, 23, 30, 38, 44 and 64 weeks of age. Production data including egg laying rate, floor eggs, mortality and feed consumption were collected over the whole laying period. Feather condition and body mass was assessed twice per laying period. The results revealed that pens with soft perches had a reduced number of keel bone fractures and deviations. Also, an interaction between hybrid and age indicated that the ISA hybrid had more fractured keel bones and fewer non-damaged keel bones compared with the DW hybrid at 18 weeks of age, a response that was reversed at the end of the experiment. This is the first study providing evidence for the effectiveness of a soft perch material within a commercial setting. Due to its compressible material soft perches are likely to absorb kinetic energy occurring during collisions and increase the spread of pressure on the keel bone during perching, providing a mechanism to reduce keel bone fractures and deviations, respectively. In combination with genetic selection for more resilient bones and new housing design, perch material is a promising tool to reduce keel bone damage in commercial systems. © 2015 Stratmann et al.

Krautwald-Junghanns M.-E.,University of Leipzig | Ellerich R.,University of Leipzig | Mitterer-Istyagin H.,University of Leipzig | Ludewig M.,University of Leipzig | And 5 more authors.
Poultry Science | Year: 2011

The present study demonstrates the prevalence of footpad lesions in turkeys and their level of expression in both live birds and in carcasses. In clinical investigations of 11,860 turkeys (5,740 males, 6,120 females) of the strain British United Turkeys Big 6, individuals of all the observed flocks showed alterations to the plantar skin. In general, the degree and severity of skin alterations were higher in the 16th week of life than in the 6th or 11th week of life. Epithelial necrosis, however, was already apparent in about 45% of individuals in the 6th week of life. At this point, deep lesions on the footpad surface were still rare findings. In the 11th week of life, such skin changes were apparent in 14.7% of males and 25.7% of hens. In general, the feet of male turkeys were less affected by footpad damage than those of females in the subsequent fattening period. In hens, the prevalence of lesions of the footpads at wk 16 of age was 60.0%, almost twice as high as in males of the same age group (33.8%). A comparison of the findings from the right and left feet showed that the state of the 2 extremities was correlated (Spearman correlation: r = 0.830). During the visual inspection of 16,200 slaughtered turkeys (7,800 males, 8,400 hens), almost all carcasses studied showed alterations to the footpad skin. Only 2.1% of males and 0.6% of females were without lesions. The most frequently observed lesions measured up to 2 cm in diameter (males: 59.2%; hens: 57.7%). Pronounced skin lesions of the footpad (males: 21.1%; females: 29.5%) and necrosis of the superficial epithelium (males: 17.5%; females: 12.1%) were less common. Foot abscesses were diagnosed only sporadically (males: 0.1%; females: 0.1%). © 2011 Poultry Science Association Inc.

Domestic chickens from lines selected for low (LFP) or high (HFP) levels of feather pecking (FP) were reared in 14 bird groups and pecking to various forms presented on a computer screen was recorded at 2 weeks of age. HFP chickens delivered significantly more pecks (combined for all forms: circle, ellipse, rod, rods in feather like pattern and feather in colours: red, yellow, green) than LPF chickens, whereas no significant effects were found for form, colour, hatch or interactions. Total FP (sum of gentle and severe FP) was significantly higher in HFP chickens and decreased significantly with increasing age from 6 over 9 to 21 days. According to the 'changed template'-hypothesis, pecking preferences of HFP chickens would differ to thoseof LFP chickens but data could not support this hypothesis. Rather, the HFP chickens pecked at any form and colour with a much higher intensity than the LFP chickens lending support to the hyperactivity model of feather pecking in that genetic selection for a higher level of FP is paralleled by a higher level of arousal leading to increased pecking to animate (FP) as well as inanimate (i.e. forms on a screen) stimuli.© Verlag Eugen Ulmer, Stuttgart.

Pickel T.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry | Pickel T.,University of Munster | Scholz B.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry | Schrader L.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2010

Resting on perches is an important behaviour for laying hens. However, perches in laying hen husbandry systems are associated with health problems which may result from inadequate perch designs. The aim of this study was to focus on particular behavioural patterns shown by laying hens on different perches during night-time in order to test whether perching behaviour may provide information on the suitability of a particular perch design. A total of 60 Lohmann Selected Leghorn hens were kept in six compartments over two identical trials. Hens were randomly offered nine round perches, which differed in material (wood, steel, rubber cover) and diameter (27, 34, 45 mm) for one week each. Duration of resting, standing, preening and frequencies of balance movements and comfort behaviours shown by individual hens on each perch were recorded throughout one night (10.5 h) on day six of each observation week. Balance movements decreased with increasing perch diameter (P< 0.001) and appeared less on rubber perches compared to wood and steel (P< 0.05). On steel perches, hens rested longer with their heads tucked backwards into their feathers (P< 0.001) and less with their heads forward with neck pulled back compared to wood and rubber perches (P< 0.001) irrespective of perch diameter. Standing was shown less often on steel compared to wood or rubber perches (P< 0.001). Our data provide evidence that a detailed analysis of hens' perching behaviour can give important information on the suitability of a perch design related to diameter and material. In this context, balance movements may be the most sensitive indicator of the suitability of a perch design with respect to stable footing on perch, whereas resting position and standing on perches are likely to be related to thermoregulatory adjustment in behaviour. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Pickel T.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry | Pickel T.,University of Munster | Schrader L.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry | Scholz B.,Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry
Poultry Science | Year: 2011

The provision of perches in housing systems for laying hens is meant to improve hens' welfare by allowing a more natural behavior repertoire. However, the use of perches is associated with welfare problems, such as keel bone deviations and foot pad lesions, that may possibly result from high mechanical pressure load during extended perching activities. The aim of this study was to analyze peak force and contact area of hens' keel bones and foot pads on solid test perches of square, round, and oval shape with 3 different diameters each (experiment 1) and on commercially used perches (round steel tube, 2 sizes of mushroom-shaped plastic, and flattened round plastic) together with 2 prototypes of soft, round polyurethane perches (experiment 2). Test perches were covered with a pressure sensor film and 36 laying hens (18 Lohmann Selected Leghorn, 18 Lohmann Brown) were consecutively placed on each perch in an experimental cage during nighttime. Peak force (N/cm 2) and contact area (cm 2) were measured while hens were sitting and standing on the different test perches. Pressure peaks on the keel bone were approximately 5 times higher compared with single foot pad. On square perches, keel bone peak force was lower (P < 0.05) and contact area was larger (P < 0.001) compared with round and oval perches. In addition, peak force on foot pads in standing hens was higher on square perches (P < 0.05) compared with oval perches. Perch size did not affect peak forces on keel bones in sitting hens and foot pads in standing hens (experiment 1). On prototype perches, peak force on the keel bone was lower and contact area was larger compared with all commercial perches tested (P < 0.001). Peak force on foot pads was lower on prototype perches compared with steel perches (P < 0.01; experiment 2). Perches with a soft surface may possibly reduce keel bone and foot pad welfare problems in perching laying hens. © 2011 Poultry Science Association Inc.

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