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Preferences of Laying Hens for Three Perches of Varying Physical Characteristics


As production systems for laying hens in the United States move towards more complex environments with greater behavioral freedom for the bird, questions about how the environment influences the welfare of the bird have arisen. Due to its nature as a highly-motivated behavior, perch design is of particular interest, with both spatial arrangement and physical characteristics impacting the hen’s health and affective state. This study sought to determine which perch type hens prefer by conducting a simple choice test using 77 week old Dekab hens. Observations were taken during both the morning and evening, with percent of time spent perching by hens significantly higher in evening observations (P > 0.001) Hens were given a choice between two perches available in commercial settings, a round metal perch, a mushroom-shaped plastic perch as well as shorter rectangular wooden beams that held these perches. The position of the perches within the pen was rotated between observation days. Overall (P = 0.25) and during morning observations (P = 0.57), no difference in percentage of perch use was found between the three perch types. During evening observations there was a preference for round metal perches over the rectangular wooden beams, with mushroom plastic perches used an intermediate amount (P = 0.03). During the evening observations, the laying hens had a location preference within the pen and perched more frequently on one side of the pen independent of perch type offered (P > 0.001). These results indicate that hens did not have a strong preference between the round metal or mushroom plastic perches, and that in choosing a place to perch the physical characteristics of the perch are possibly less important than other factors such as location.

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