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Are dual-purpose hens less fearful than conventional layer hybrids?

Abstract

Background Excessive fear in farm animals can lead to chronic stress and thus impair animal welfare. In laying hens, fear responses in several behavioural tests have also been associated with the occurrence of feather pecking. The aim of the present study was to comparatively assess fear-related responses of conventional layer hybrids (Lohmann Brown plus, LB+) and dual-purpose hens (Lohmann Dual, LD), which seem to be less prone to injurious pecking.

Methods A novel object (NO) and an avoidance distance (AD) test were carried out in both hybrids at a group level and at different ages during the laying period in order to measure their fear-related responses.

Results On most study days, more LD hens approached the NO and they approached it sooner than the LB+ hens. Similarly, the LD hens retreated at smaller distances from a human being in the AD test.

Conclusion The results indicate that dual-purpose hens act less fearful in the performed behavioural tests compared with conventional layer hybrids. Therefore, dual-purpose hens might experience less stress during daily management routines, which would affect animal welfare positively.

  • laying hens
  • behaviour
  • welfare
  • husbandry
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