Within the laying hen industry, there are various animal welfare concerns associated with the contemporary production systems used for these egg-layers. Keel bone damage (KBD) is one such critical issue that extends to all housing systems, genetic lines, and management styles whereby pain, compromised welfare, and reduced productivity are likely outcomes. It is assumed that collisions with and within a poultry housing system are one of the main sources leading to KBD. With over 5 billion hens on a global scale, improvements to these systems have the potential to positively impact a huge population of animals. Dr. Alexandra Harlander is a researcher in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at the University of Guelph who aims to tackle this issue together with her lab group via various research projects. Their research focuses on understanding the development of locomotor and cognitive skills in laying hens as these contribute towards the ability of hens to safely navigate housing systems. Since falls and collisions play a large role in KBD, they have analyzed how conditions such as overcrowding, low lighting, and poor physical health can impact the balancing strategies of laying hens. In addition, they are acquiring first ever knowledge on how hens navigate multi-tier aviary systems during rearing, including how they manage various inclined walkways/ramps. Through this research, they aim to provide insight on how to build alternative laying hen housing systems from a bird’s point of view that will minimize injurious collisions and thereby occurrences of KBD.
For more information on this research, please read:
- ” Locomotion skills of chicks over an inclined walkway”
- “Chick locomotion in a multilayer environment.”
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