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Finding hens in a haystack: Consistency of movement patterns within and across individual laying hens maintained in large groups

Published on Dec 1, 2018in Scientific Reports4.011
· DOI :10.1038/s41598-018-29962-x
Christina Barbara Rufener3
Estimated H-index: 3
(University of Bern),
John Berezowski5
Estimated H-index: 5
(University of Bern)
+ 3 AuthorsMichael J. Toscano18
Estimated H-index: 18
(University of Bern)
Abstract
We sought to objectively quantify and compare the recorded movement and location patterns of laying hens within a commercial system. Using a custom tracking system, we monitored the location within five zones of a commercial aviary for 13 hens within a flock of 225 animals for a contiguous period of 11 days. Most hens manifested a hen-specific pattern that was (visually) highly consistent across days, though, within that consistency, manifested stark differences between hens. Three different methods were used to classify individual daily datasets into groups based on their similarity: (i) Linear Discriminant Analysis based on six summary variables (transitions into each zone) and total transitions; (ii) Hierarchical Clustering, a naive clustering analysis technique, applied to summary variables and iii) Hierarchical Clustering applied to dissimilarity matrices produced by Dynamic Time Warping. The three methods correctly classified more than 85% of the hen days and provided a unique means to assess behaviour of a system indicating a considerable degree of complexity and structure. We believe the current effort is the first to document these location and movement patterns within a large, complex commercial system with a large potential to influence the assessment of animal welfare, health, and productivity.
  • References (39)
  • Citations (4)
References39
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#1Sylvia Villanueva (MSU: Michigan State University)H-Index: 1
#2Ahmed B.A. Ali (MSU: Michigan State University)H-Index: 5
Last. Janice M. Siegford (MSU: Michigan State University)H-Index: 16
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5 CitationsSource
#1Isabel Vessier (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)H-Index: 1
#2Harry J. Blokhuis (SLU: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)H-Index: 47
Last. K. H. SlothH-Index: 5
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Precision Livestock Farming (PLF) is often perceived as an instrumentation of animals in order to make more profitable ‘industrial farms’. By contrast, one could argue that animal welfare can be better ensured if they are closely monitored with state of the art technology, enabling rapid feedback by the farmer. We will start from the main dimensions of animal welfare, as defined in the Welfare Quality® approach, to analyse how PLF can help to ensure the health and the comfort of animals, to prom...
1 Citations
#1Hannah LarsenH-Index: 1
#2Greg M. CroninH-Index: 22
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In this exploratory study, we tracked free-range laying hens on two commercial flocks with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology with the aim to examine individual hen variation in range use. Three distinct outdoor zones were identified at increasing distances from the shed; the veranda [0–2.4 m], close range [2.4–11.4 m], and far range [>11.4 m]. Hens’ movements between these areas were tracked using radio frequency identification technology. Most of the hens in both flocks (68.6% in...
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#1Daniel BerckmansH-Index: 1
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#1Janice M. Siegford (MSU: Michigan State University)H-Index: 16
#2John Berezowski (University of Bern)H-Index: 5
Last. Michael J. Toscano (University of Bern)H-Index: 18
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Tracking individual animals within large groups is increasingly possible, offering an exciting opportunity to researchers. Whereas previously only relatively indistinguishable groups of individual animals could be observed and combined into pen level data, we can now focus on individual actors within these large groups and track their activities across time and space with minimal intervention and disturbance. The development is particularly relevant to the poultry industry as, due to a shift awa...
16 CitationsSource
#1Nadine Ringgenberg (University of Bern)H-Index: 3
Last. Beatrice A. RothH-Index: 9
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Laying hens in loose-housing systems select a nest daily in which to lay their eggs among many identical looking nests, they often prefer corner nests. We investigated whether heterogeneity in nest curtain appearance – via colours and symbols – would influence nest selection and result in an even distribution of eggs among nests. We studied pre-laying behaviour in groups of 30 LSL hens across two consecutive trials with eight groups per trial. Half of the groups had access to six identical rolla...
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#1Nadine Ringgenberg (University of Bern)H-Index: 3
Last. Beatrice A. RothH-Index: 9
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Nest choice in loose-housed laying hens is influenced by nest characteristics, position and social factors. We examined the relative preference of laying hens for two group-nests differing in the presence or absence of a partition in the middle of the nest and whether this was influenced by social status. We hypothesized that hens would prefer the partitioned nest as it provides more enclosure, and that social status would affect nest choice. Relative preference for the nests was assessed in a f...
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#1Ariane Stratmann (University of Bern)H-Index: 5
Last. Michael J. Toscano (University of Bern)H-Index: 18
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Non-cage housing systems for laying hens such as aviaries provide greater freedom to perform species-specific behavior and thus are thought to improve welfare of the birds; however, aviaries are associated with a high prevalence of keel bone damage (fractures and deviations), which is a major welfare problem in commercial laying hens. Potential causes of keel bone damage are falls and collisions with internal housing structures that occur as birds move between tiers or perches in the aviary. The...
43 CitationsSource
#1W. A. Matthews (University of California, Berkeley)H-Index: 1
#2Daniel A. Sumner (UC Davis: University of California, Davis)H-Index: 29
This article reports the first publicly available egg production costs compared across 3 hen-housing systems. We collected detailed data from 2 flock cycles from a commercial egg farm operating a conventional barn, an aviary, and an enriched colony system at the same location. The farm employed the same operational and accounting procedures for each housing system. Results provide clear evidence that egg production costs are much higher for the aviary system than the other 2 housing systems. Fee...
21 CitationsSource
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Abstract Variations in the group size of laying hens might increase the risk of undesired behaviours with important consequences for the birds’ health and welfare. However, larger groups housed at constant densities also translate into larger enclosures that may increase space efficiency, therefore improving movement opportunities. The effects of group size (GS), phenotypic appearance (PA) and age on the behaviour and movement trajectories of pullets were analyzed. 1050 Hy-line brown chicks were...
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In commercial flocks of laying hens, keel bone fractures (KBFs) are prevalent and associated with behavioural indicators of pain. However, whether their impact is severe enough to induce a depressive-like state of chronic stress is unknown. As chronic stress downregulates adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) in mammals and birds, we employ this measure as a neural biomarker of subjective welfare state. Radiographs obtained longitudinally from Lohmann Brown laying hens housed in a commercial mult...
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#1B A Ali (Clemson University)
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Tiered aviaries are intended to improve laying hen welfare by providing resources that enable them to perform essential behaviors. However, hens must be able to navigate these complex systems efficiently and safely. This study investigated the influence of providing perches and nests starting at 17 or 25 wk of age (WOA) on hens’ use of vertical space in an aviary at 36 and 54 WOA. Three treatments were applied to pullets raised in floor pens until 17 WOA (4 units/treatment; 100 hens/unit). Contr...
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Cleaning interactions are textbook examples of mutualisms. On coral reefs, most fishes engage in cooperative interactions with cleaners fishes, where they benefit from ectoparasite reduction and ultimately stress relief. Furthermore, such interactions elicit beneficial effects on clients’ ecophysiology. However, the potential effects of future ocean warming (OW) and acidification (OA) on these charismatic associations are unknown. Here we show that a 45-day acclimation period to OW (+3 °C) and O...
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ABSTRACT1. The objective of this study was to investigate the association of using a multi-tier aviary system and access to range on flock uniformity in free-range laying hens, and to determine whe...
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#1Christina Rufener (UC Davis: University of California, Davis)
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Abstract Keel bone fractures (KBF) in laying hens have been shown to cause pain and impair mobility under experimental conditions. However, it is not known how KBF relates to the mobility of individual hens housed in aviary systems. For the current study, 120 focal hens (60 Lohmann Brown (LB) and 60 Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL)) were kept in six identical pens equipped with a commercially relevant aviary system (20 LSL focal hens + 205 LB or 20 LB focal hens + 205 LSL per pen, respectively). D...
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