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    Factors involved in the improvement of the use of hen runs

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    Abstract
    Free-range systems improve the welfare of laying hens. However, hen runs are often used only close to the poultry house and only a small proportion of hens are outside. Several studies indicate that structuring elements in the hen run improve the frequency and distribution of hens in the run. In our experiments we studied the characteristics of structures which have effects on the use of the free-range area. In two choice experiments we investigated whether hens prefer a greater amount of covered area or a greater diversity of structuring elements. Following this, we investigated whether hens have a better distribution in the range area when they first have to go through a corridor before reaching the grass-covered part of the run. In the final experiment in this series we tried to optimise hen runs, using the results from the previous experiments, on several farms to validate these results under practical conditions.
    During the choice experiment investigating the number of structures, hens showed no preference for being on the part with 5% of area covered with structures, compared to only 1%. However, more hens preferred the part containing different structures, compared to the part containing only one kind of structuring element. The hens were better distributed in the hen run when they had direct access to the run, rather than having to go through a corridor. During the on-farm experiment, more hens were outside in the optimised hen runs and were found more frequently in the part farther away from the poultry house. The hens preferred to stay close to structures providing shelter and shade. However, diverse structures attracted the hens more for foraging.

    A hen run should contain different structuring elements, equally distributed around the whole area.

    Article Outline
    1. Introduction
    2. Experiment 1: number and variety of structures in the hen run
    2.1. Methods
    2.1.1. Subjects and housing
    2.1.2. Procedures
    2.1.3. Statistical analysis
    2.2. Results and discussion
    3. Experiment 2: corridors
    3.1. Methods
    3.1.1. Subjects and housing
    3.1.2. Procedures
    3.2. Results and discussion
    4. Experiment 3: on-farm implementation
    4.1. Methods
    4.1.1. Subjects and housing
    4.1.2. Procedures
    4.1.3. Statistical analysis
    4.2. Results and discussion
    4.2.1. Use of the hen run
    4.2.2. Behaviour
    5. General discussion
    6. Conclusion
    Acknowledgements
    References
     

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    作者:Zeltner, Esther, Hirt, Helen 来源:Elsevier 发布时间:2011年07月12日