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Article

Frequent Visits to an Outdoor Range and Lower Areas of an Aviary System Is Related to Curiosity in Commercial Free-Range Laying Hens

1
School of Environmental and Rural Science, Faculty of Science, Agriculture, Business and Law, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
2
School of Science and Technology, Faculty of Science, Agriculture, Business and Law, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1706; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091706
Received: 31 August 2020 / Revised: 10 September 2020 / Accepted: 18 September 2020 / Published: 21 September 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
Individual hens’ preferences to spend time at particular locations within free-range aviary housing system may be influenced by personality and behavioral characteristics such as curiosity or fear. We monitored hens’ location for their production life on a commercial free-range farm: time spent in the outdoor range, upper feeder, lower feeder, and nest box tier. At the end of lay, we conducted a series of validated behavioral tests to assess fearfulness and exploration. We hypothesized that if temperament encouraged preferences for particular areas, we would find relationships with early life behavior. Conversely, relationships with choice of space and whole production life ranging would indicate environmental influences on temperament. Whilst we could not determine causation, more time spent on the range and lower feeder tier was associated with increased curiosity but only when considering whole-life not early-life ranging. We found little evidence that fearfulness or individual coping styles was associated with time spent at a specific housing location in early or whole life. Body weight prior to range access was the strongest predictor of more time spent at the lower and less on upper feeder tier. We provide evidence that preference for more complex environments such as range may increase hen curiosity.
Individual hen preferences to spend time at particular locations within a free-range aviary system and relationships with temperament is relatively unknown. Hens (n = 769) from three commercial flocks were monitored with Radio Frequency Identification technology to determine time spent on the range, upper and lower aviary tiers, and nest boxes. Prior depopulation, novel arena (NA) and novel object (NO) tests assessed exploration and fearfulness. During early life; more time on the lower tier was associated with more lines crossed in the NA test (p < 0.05). No other evidence suggested preference during early life was related to fear or curiosity. More time on the range and lower tier were associated with heavier pre-ranging body weight and gain (p = 0.0001). Over the hens’ whole life; time spent on range and lower tier was associated with approaching the NO (p < 0.01). More time spent on the upper tier was associated with less time near the NO and fewer lines crossed in NA (p < 0.01). The relationships during early and whole life use of space and some potential indicators of fearfulness were inconsistent and therefore, no strong, valid, and reliable indicators of hen fearfulness such as freezing were identified. View Full-Text
Keywords: aviary; behavior; egg; layer; non-cage; personality; poultry; ranging; welfare aviary; behavior; egg; layer; non-cage; personality; poultry; ranging; welfare
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kolakshyapati, M.; Taylor, P.S.; Hamlin, A.; Sibanda, T.Z.; Vilela, J.d.S.; Ruhnke, I. Frequent Visits to an Outdoor Range and Lower Areas of an Aviary System Is Related to Curiosity in Commercial Free-Range Laying Hens. Animals 2020, 10, 1706. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091706

AMA Style

Kolakshyapati M, Taylor PS, Hamlin A, Sibanda TZ, Vilela JdS, Ruhnke I. Frequent Visits to an Outdoor Range and Lower Areas of an Aviary System Is Related to Curiosity in Commercial Free-Range Laying Hens. Animals. 2020; 10(9):1706. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091706

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kolakshyapati, Manisha, Peta S. Taylor, Adam Hamlin, Terence Z. Sibanda, Jessica d.S. Vilela, and Isabelle Ruhnke. 2020. "Frequent Visits to an Outdoor Range and Lower Areas of an Aviary System Is Related to Curiosity in Commercial Free-Range Laying Hens" Animals 10, no. 9: 1706. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091706

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