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Animals 2016, 6(3), 17; doi:10.3390/ani6030017

Can Non-Beak Treated Hens be Kept in Commercial Furnished Cages? Exploring the Effects of Strain and Extra Environmental Enrichment on Behaviour, Feather Cover, and Mortality

1
Monogastric Science Research Centre, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), Auchincruive Estate KA6 5HN, UK
2
Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph ON N1G 2W1, Canada
3
Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare, University of Guelph, Guelph ON N1G 2W1, Canada
4
Biomathematics and Statistics Scotland, James Clerk Maxwell Building, King’s Buildings, Peter Guthrie Tait Road, Edinburgh EH9 3FD, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Christine Nicol and T. Bas Rodenburg
Received: 1 February 2016 / Revised: 16 February 2016 / Accepted: 17 February 2016 / Published: 25 February 2016
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Abstract

Commercial laying hens are prone to injurious pecking (IP), a common multifactorial problem. A 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design assessed the effects of breed (Lohmann Brown Classic (L) or Hyline Brown (H)), beak treatment (infra-red treated (T) or not (NT)), and environment (extra enrichment (EE) or no extra enrichment (NE)) on mortality, behaviour, feather cover, and beak shape. Hens were allocated to treatments at 16 weeks of age and data were collected every four weeks from age 19 to 71 weeks. Data were analysed in Genstat using mixed models. L hens had higher all and IP-related mortality than H hens (p < 0.003), whilst NT hens had higher mortality than T hens but only due to culling of whole cages (p < 0.001). Feather cover for L hens deteriorated more quickly with age at most body sites than H hens (age × breed × body site p < 0.001). For NT hens, feather cover was worse at most body sites (beak treatment × body site p < 0.001), and worsened more quickly with age (age × beak treatment p = 0.014) than T hens. L and NE hens performed more bird-to-bird pecking than H and EE hens, respectively (breed p = 0.015, enrichment p = 0.032). More damage to mats and ropes was caused by L and NT hens than by H and T hens, respectively (age × breed p < 0.005, beak treatment p < 0.001). Though H hens had fewer mortalities and better feather cover, breed effects may have been influenced by farm management practices, as they may have been better suited to H than L hens. Though EE hens performed less bird-to-bird pecking, the enrichments were less effective at reducing feather cover damage and mortality than expected. View Full-Text
Keywords: beak trimming; beak treatment; laying hen; injurious pecking; furnished cage; feather cover; environmental enrichment beak trimming; beak treatment; laying hen; injurious pecking; furnished cage; feather cover; environmental enrichment
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Morrissey, K.L.H.; Brocklehurst, S.; Baker, L.; Widowski, T.M.; Sandilands, V. Can Non-Beak Treated Hens be Kept in Commercial Furnished Cages? Exploring the Effects of Strain and Extra Environmental Enrichment on Behaviour, Feather Cover, and Mortality. Animals 2016, 6, 17.

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