Clustering and synchrony in laying hens: the effect of environmental resources on social dynamics

Collins, L. M., Asher, L., Pfeiffer, D. U. , Browne, W. J. and Nicol, C. J. (2011) Clustering and synchrony in laying hens: the effect of environmental resources on social dynamics. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 129 (1). pp. 43-53. ISSN 0168-1591

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Laying hens generally choose to aggregate, but the extent to which the environments in which we house them impact on social group dynamics is not known. In this paper the effect of pen environment on spatial clustering is considered. Twelve groups of four laying hens were studied under three environmental conditions: wire floor (W), shavings (Sh) and perches, peat, nestbox and shavings (PPN). Groups experienced each environment twice, for five weeks each time, in a systematic order that varied from group to group. Video recordings were made one day per week for 30 weeks. To determine level of clustering, we recorded positional data from a randomly selected 20-min excerpt per video (a total of 20. min �. 360 videos analysed). On screen, pens were divided into six equal areas. In addition, PPN pens were divided into an additional four (sub) areas, to account for the use of perches (one area per half perch). Every 5. s, we recorded the location of each bird and calculated location use over time, feeding synchrony and cluster scores for each environment. Feeding synchrony and cluster scores were compared against unweighted and weighted (according to observed proportional location use) Poisson distributions to distinguish between resource and social attraction. Clustering was greater than expected in all environments under both weighted and unweighted distribution assumptions. In all environments, singleton hens were observed less than expected, and groups of two or more were observed in the feeding location more than expected in an unweighted distribution. In conclusion, it was found that hens in all environments clustered; however clustering appeared to result from resource-use rather than social cohesion. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords:cluster analysis, housing, laying date, nest box, poultry, resource use, social behavior, spatial distribution, synchrony, videography, Aves
Subjects:D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D300 Animal Science
D Veterinary Sciences, Agriculture and related subjects > D328 Animal Welfare
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:11873
Deposited On:13 Sep 2013 08:23

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