ifoam'96 ifoam'96
Book of Abstracts
11th IFOAM Scientific Conference
11-15 August 1996, Copenhagen, Denmark
EcoWeb Denmark


Chickens: Activity and Social Relationships

Keppler, Christiane,1; Bölter-Schnurrenberger, Ulrike2; Fölsch, Detlef. W.1

1) University of Kassel, Faculty of Agriculture, International Rural Development and Environmental Protection, Section: Farm Animal Behaviour and Management, D-37213 Witzenhausen; 2) Rheintalweg 87, CH-4125 Riehen

Free range systems and aviary systems for 1000 - 2200 laying hens were developed and refined in Switzerland at the beginning of the eighties. The aviary systems are characterised by perches and roosts at different heights for resting and feeding, natural light, litter covered floor and special places for dust/sand bathing. The most notable difference in behaviour of the hens in comparision with conventional systems is the relative calmness of the birds. A stable social structure in groups appeared to be one reason of this effect. For clarification of this hypothesis individual activity, use of space and social behaviour were studied.
The investigation was carried out on three farms with aviary systems (985 laying hens; 1744 laying hens and six cockerels and 1816 parent chicken at a ratio of 1:10 cockerels) and one farm with a free range system (360 laying hens and two cockerels).
In the aviary systems six laying hens and three cockerels in total were individually observed during the whole period of light. Environmental factors, time, position and behaviour were noticed.To investigate the social interaction, in each of the three aviary systems 2,2-3,2% of the animals were individually marked and there position were noticed every hour during the whole period of light. In the free range system about 30% of the animals were individually marked and the position and behaviour were recorded. Differences between the coincidence of a meeting of two individuals and the occurrence of such a meeting were interpreted as a social interaction.
The results show that cockerels and hens use 48-65% of the whole area and they prefer special territories. The hens use nests for egg-laying outside of these territories. The locomotion activity of cockerels is higher and the feeding activity is lower than these of the hens. The research on social interactions shows that hens form subgroups up to six animals.

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