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Effect of litter material on natural behaviours in hens housed in furnished cages

M. Guinebretière, H. Beyer, C. Arnould, V. Michel

THE 2012 European Directive banning conventional chicken cages stated that birds kept in furnished cages must have access to litter. The type of litter to be used was not specified, but should allow the birds to express natural behaviours including pecking, scratching and dustbathing. This study aimed to assess the preference of hens for different types of litter and also for different ‘pads’ (mats placed on the bottom of cages used to catch any loose material).

A total of 120 hens were split into groups of four. Sixty hens were used in the litter preference test, while the remaining 60 were used in the pad preference test. The test area was a wooden pen with a nest in the middle and four adjoining areas. The types of litter tested were: wheat bran, blond peat, rough sand and fine sand. In the litter preference test, a different litter was placed in each of the adjoining areas and each group of four birds was placed in the test area for four consecutive days. Behaviours were recorded throughout using digital cameras. …

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