BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
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Examining spatial personalities of commercial laying hens and behavioural responses to keel bone fractures and management practices

Montalcini, Camille Marie (2024). Examining spatial personalities of commercial laying hens and behavioural responses to keel bone fractures and management practices. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

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This thesis aimed to explore space-use and movement behaviours of cage-free commercial laying hens to quantify consistent individual differences and to explain behavioural variation in response to keel bone fractures and various management practices. We monitored the movements of 403 hens distributed across two flocks, as they transitioned between five zones: the three stacked tiers of an aviary system, the littered floor, and the winter garden, using a herein validated low-frequency tracking system. We tracked hens from the day of transfer to the laying barn until nearly the end of the production cycle (17-60 weeks of age) and extracted daily behaviours related to various aspects of their daily routine, including the sleeping, feeding, nesting, indoor movements, and outdoor usage. We found consistent individual differences during the onset of lay (the first two months in the laying barn) and during adulthood where consistent differences between individuals explained between 24% and 66% of the behavioural variation. These long-term consistencies - together with the identified syndrome comprising all behaviours except the one related to the nesting - revealed the potential applicability of these behaviours as personality traits and indicated two axes of spatial personalities that may be driven by different mechanisms. Alongside consistent inter-individual differences we exposed intra-individual variation underscoring the relevance of studying spatial behaviour to better understand how animals respond to external and internal changes. Specifically, we found that an increase in the severity of keel bone fractures led to a drop in vertical travelled distance and tended to be followed by more tiers crossed within a transition. In addition, we exemplified how tracking systems could be used to assess long- and short-term influences of different management practices on hens' behaviour, including the commercial hatchery process, the transfer to the laying barn, and the daily automated delivery of fresh feed. To assess relative benefits further research should evaluate how these behaviours correlated with animals’ physiological stress responses and affective state.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 9 February 2024
Subjects: 600 Technology > 630 Agriculture
Institute / Center: 05 Veterinary Medicine
Depositing User: Sarah Stalder
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2024 09:50
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2024 09:50

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