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Identification of key nest site stimuli for Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica)

{ "0" : "Abteilung Sozial- und Nutztierethologie, Zoologisches Institut, Universität Bern, Ethologische Station Hasli, Wohlenstrasse 50a, Hinterkappelen CH-3032, Switzerland" , "1" : "Bundesamt für Veterinärwesen, Prüfstelle für Stalleinrichtungen, FAT, Tänikon 8356, Switzerland" , "3" : "Japanese quail" , "4" : "Reproductive behaviour" , "5" : "Nest site selection"}
Applied Animal Behaviour Science (Impact Factor: 1.63). 04/1998; DOI: 10.1016/S0168-1591(97)00107-X

ABSTRACT 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.

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