For both egg production and laboratory research, Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica) are typically housed in battery cages without nest boxes. In such cages the quail hens show symptoms of pre-laying restlessness. The inability to perform normal pre-laying behaviour is regarded as one of the most important problems for the welfare of caged laying hens. The present study aimed at identifying key nest site stimuli for quails, to enable nest boxes to be designed for alternative housing systems. Groups of hens were kept in pens containing litter, nest boxes and dustbathing boxes. The type of nest box was varied between pens, and the incidence of eggs laid outside the nest boxes (floor-eggs) was recorded over periods of 15 days. In experiment 1 (8 groups of 30 hens), both the nature of the top of the nest boxes (closed or with slits) and the type of substrate in the nest boxes (artificial turf or hay) had a significant effect on the percentage of floor-eggs. Nest boxes with a top with slits and filled with hay were best accepted for laying. Nest boxes situated in the corners of the pens were significantly selected more often for egg laying than more central nests. In experiment 2 (8 groups of 14 hens), neither the nature of the sides of the nest boxes (closed or with slits) nor the colour of the nest boxes (green or brown) had a significant effect on the incidence of floor-eggs. In experiment 3 (16 groups of 14 hens with 2 or 3 cocks), the percentage of floor-eggs was significantly lower in pens with high (170 lux) than with low (15 lux) light intensity. There was also a tendency for nest boxes filled with chaff to be better accepted than nest boxes filled with hay. In experiments 2 and 3, in pens with floors half litter and half of perforated plastic more floor-eggs were found on the litter. Few eggs were laid in the dustbathing boxes in any experiment. This study shows that Japanese quail lay up to 90% of eggs in nest boxes provided these are properly designed. It should therefore be feasible to develop housing systems with nests for Japanese quail which may replace conventional battery cages.
"Nest box design has an effect on nest box choice (Cooper and Appleby, 1996), but animal species, individual differences, age, and nest box usage experiences during breeding period also have an effect in determining the nest box use behaviors of poultry (Duncan et al., 1978). Further, Egg laying behaviors were presented to be affected by the color of the nesting box for the broilers (Brake, 1993), while the nest box choice could be manipulated in quails (Schmid and Wechsler, 1998). One of the interesting aspects of nest box choice is the preference of nest boxes filled with eggs, instead of those that are empty, and this is called social nesting (Riber, 2010). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this study, the effect of nest box curtain color on the complex behavior of nest box choice of brown and white layer hens bred in a free-range system, an alternative breeding system to battery cages, was analyzed. Yellow, blue, red, and green curtains were placed randomly in the entrance of the nest boxes, and the color of the nest box curtain was observed to affect the egg-laying choices of the hens (P<0.01), while the curtain color x genotype interaction was determined to bear no significance. According to the results, the nest box choices of white layer hens were 36.53%, 17.54%, 15.42%, and 23.64% for red, blue, green, and yellow, respectively; these percentages were 35.01%, 17.52%, 17.66%, and 23.43% for the brown layer hens in the respective order of the colors. On the other hand, the percentage of eggs laid on the ground was determined to be significantly lower in both white and brown layer hens, compared to the control group (P<0.01).
"Under commercial conditions, the nests that are occupied are usually situated in the corners or at the ends of a row of nests, at least at the start of lay. A similar pattern was observed in Japanese quail (Schmid and Wechsler, 1998). Some researchers state (Appleby et al., 1984a; Appleby and McRae, 1986) that gregariousness may increase the attractiveness of particular nest sites and hence further increase the competition for the limited number of preferred nests (Freire et al., 1998; Lundberg and Keeling, 1999). "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: When alternative husbandry systems to battery cages are used, a problem may arise whereby eggs are not laid in the nests provided. This leads not only to economic loss, but may also promote the outbreak of cannibalism. However, the choosing of a nest involves complex behavioural patterns and may be influenced, among other things, by exposure to a specific colour at an early age [Huber-Eicher, B., 2004. The effect of early colour preference and of a colour exposing procedure on the choice of nest colours in laying hens. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 86, 63–76]. Chicks exposed to the colours blue, green and red, preferred yellow nests when in lay, whereas exposure to yellow resulted in an indifference towards the colour of nest. In the study reported here, we further investigated this effect of exposure to yellow. During the first 12 days of life, chicks were exposed to either red or yellow and to either a high or low light intensity (four treatment regimes in total). A hen's choice of nest colour was tested at the start of lay (weeks 20–23). We randomly selected 20 hens from each of the four treatment regimes. The 80 chosen hens were then tested in groups of four, each of the four hens coming from a different treatment regime. When given a choice of nests painted in the colours yellow, red, blue or green, hens exposed to red and to a high light intensity at an early age showed a significant preference for yellow nests. Hens exposed as chicks to red and a low light intensity, or to yellow and either high or low light intensity were indifferent towards nest colour. In conclusion, we demonstrate that the effect of early exposure to yellow on reducing the preference for yellow nests later on, is due to the colour yellow per se, and not the higher light intensity that goes with it. However, high light intensity in combination with red increases the preference for yellow nests.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Flying up vertically, a typical flight behaviour of Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), may result in head injuries and mortality caused by head-banging in caged quails. Given the fact that wild Japanese quail are usually found in dense vegetation, two experiments were carried out to quantify the use of different types of cover and to measure the effect of cover on the incidence of flight behaviour. In Experiment 1, 16 groups of ten female quails were provided with two qualitatively different types of cover in four successive preference tests. It was found that the quails preferred to stay in cover types that were partially or fully open to the sides compared with cover types that were partially or fully open to the top. For egg laying they preferentially used cover types with a small entrance but no other openings to the sides or on the top. In Experiment 2, 160 female quails were individually confronted with a flight inducing stimulus in an experimental pen. The birds showed flight behaviour significantly less often if they were in cover when exposed to the stimulus. Moreover, there were significantly more flight responses when the stimulus was presented above the pen than at the side. The results suggest that the welfare of Japanese quail could be improved by incorporating cover and nest boxes into alternatives to conventional battery cages.
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