Using Radio-Frequency Identification Technology to Measure Synchronised Ranging of Free-Range Laying Hens
journal contributionposted on 2023-05-21, 10:08 authored by Campbell, DLM, Brian HortonBrian Horton, Hinch, GN
Free-range laying hen systems provide individuals a choice between indoor and outdoor areas where range use may be socially influenced. This study used radio-frequency identification technology to track the ranging of individually-tagged hens housed in six experimental free-range pens from 28 to 38 weeks of age (46–50 hens/pen). All daily visits to the range were used to study group behaviour. Results showed that 67.6% (SD = 5.0%) of all hen movements through the pop-holes outdoors or indoors were following the movement of another hen (‘pop-hole-following’) compared to only 50.5% of movements in simulated random data. The percentage overlap in time that all combinations of hen pairs within each pen spent simultaneously outdoors or indoors showed a median value of overlap greater than the 90th percentile of random data. Pens housing hens that had been provided variable enrichments from 4 to 21 days (n = 3 pens) showed higher ‘pop-hole-following’ behaviour and a higher percentage of hen-pair association compared to hens reared in non-enriched conditions (n = 3 pens). These results show that birds in each free-range pen were primarily a cohesive flock and early enrichment improved this social cohesiveness. These results have implications for understanding free-range flock-level behaviour.
Department/SchoolTasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)
Place of publicationSwitzerland
Rights statementCopyright: © 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).