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25 January 2013

Do hens have friends?

Recent interest in positive welfare has encouraged consideration of the formation of socio-positive relationships in farmed species which may provide a means by which to manage positive states. We investigated in detail the existence of dyadic preferential associations in small groups of domestic laying hens. Spatial and temporal associations were examined in two contexts (day activity and evening roosting), within 8 identical pens of 15 laying hens over 8 weeks. Little aggression was observed. Social network analysis was performed to investigate correlations in who associated with whom using weighted degree (number) and binary (presence or absence) data for shared resource areas and proximity to other individuals. No consistent evidence was found for hens actively preferring others in their choice of resource area, or in companion proximity. Perch-roosting positions chosen by the hens were compared with data generated from a random-choice model. Hens showed no position preferences. Most dyads were never observed roosting together and, although some apparently perched together frequently, the low number of nights perching and proportion of nights spent together indicates these findings should be interpreted with caution. Overall, we found no convincing evidence of dyadic preferential relationships expressed by close active and resting proximities. Further work is required to confirm whether these findings hold true in other experimental contexts, are affected by social experience and if they hold in common with the progenitor sub-species. Applied Animal Behaviour Science Volume 143, Issue 1 , Pages 61-66, 15 January 2013
Author/Organization: Siobhan M. Abeyesinghe, Julian A. Drewe , Lucy Asher , Christopher M. Wathes , Lisa M. Collins
Year: 2013
Topics: animal behaviour, housing, laying hens