The Human-Animal Relationship in Australian Caged Laying Hens
Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia
Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Agriculture Research Victoria, Hamilton, Victoria 3300, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 April 2019 / Revised: 29 April 2019 / Accepted: 29 April 2019 / Published: 2 May 2019
Stockperson behaviour can influence fear of humans and welfare of farm animals. This study observed the human-animal relationship (HAR) in 19 Australian caged laying hen flocks to determine whether stockperson behaviour was associated with behavioural indicators of fear of humans and stress in caged laying hens. The average avoidance response of each flock toward an approaching human was assessed using two behavioural tests, and stress was measured using the concentration of corticosterone in an egg sample collected immediately prior to these observations. Stockperson behaviour was observed for 2 days in each flock and compared to hen fear. Unexpectedly, no relationships were found between the observed stockperson behaviour and avoidance of humans in the hens, but flocks were more productive when they showed less avoidance of humans, and when stockpeople made less noise in the laying house. This suggests that stockperson behaviour and hen fear may influence productivity, but there was no evidence that any effect of fear on productivity was caused by stockperson behaviour. Unexpectedly, the most fearful flocks also had the lowest stress levels. These results clearly need further research to be fully understood but could not confirm the existence of the HAR on caged egg farms in Australia.