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Animals 2018, 8(2), 26; doi:10.3390/ani8020026

Spatial Cognition and Range Use in Free-Range Laying Hens

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Agriculture and Food, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia
Adjunct to School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
School of Psychology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 January 2018 / Revised: 27 January 2018 / Accepted: 3 February 2018 / Published: 8 February 2018
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Radio-frequency identification tracking shows individual free-range laying hens vary in range use, with some never going outdoors. The range is typically more environmentally complex, requiring navigation to return to the indoor resources. Outdoor-preferring hens may have improved spatial abilities compared to indoor-preferring hens. Experiment 1 tested 32 adult ISA Brown hens in a T-maze learning task that showed exclusively-indoor birds were slowest to reach the learning success criterion (p < 0.05). Experiment 2 tested 117 pullets from enriched or non-enriched early rearing treatments (1 pen replicate per treatment) in the same maze at 15–16 or 17–18 weeks. Enriched birds reached learning success criterion faster at 15–16 weeks (p < 0.05) but not at 17–18 weeks (p > 0.05), the age that coincided with the onset of lay. Enriched birds that were faster to learn the maze task showed more range visits in the first 4 weeks of range access. Enriched and non-enriched birds showed no differences in telencephalon or hippocampal volume (p > 0.05). Fear may reduce spatial abilities but further testing with more pen replicates per early rearing treatments would improve our understanding of the relationship between spatial cognitive abilities and range use. View Full-Text
Keywords: T-maze; learning; radio-frequency identification; early enrichment; brain; fear T-maze; learning; radio-frequency identification; early enrichment; brain; fear

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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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Campbell, D.L.; Talk, A.C.; Loh, Z.A.; Dyall, T.R.; Lee, C. Spatial Cognition and Range Use in Free-Range Laying Hens. Animals 2018, 8, 26.

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