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Experts study cage design for improved nesting


May 12, 2017
By The Western Producer

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May 12, 2017, London, Ont. – Researchers are delving deeper into the nesting motivations of birds and finding them as finicky about nesting as humans are about their comfort.

They are also finding more research needs to be done.

Michelle Hunniford, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph, is researching the nesting behaviour of laying hens.

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She has found that new ways of evaluating nesting behaviour are needed.

She told a session at the London Poultry Show that settling behavior, the process hens go through to find and get themselves comfortable to lay an egg, along with egg location should drive cage design evaluation. The speed that a hen gets to that comfort level is correlated to how much pecking it does to establish its space and how long it occupies nesting space.

The University of Guelph re-searchers observed hens through their waking period — lights came on at 5 a.m. — and recorded their behaviour.

They then created graphs that showed a “settled” laying hen moved through its settling phases in more defined periods compared to an “unsettled” layer hen.

In most enhanced systems, the layers have a nesting area, with flooring and a scratch area.
Hunniford and her colleagues looked at what nests would motivate hens to settle in the desired nesting areas.
They found it was difficult to predict which hens would lay where and some hens preferred one system while others chose another.

As a result, one of Hunniford’s recommendations include that providing two smaller nests is more important that providing one large, fully furnished nest. READ MORE