Identification of key nest site stimuli for Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica)
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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ABSTRACT: Use of nest boxes is an important part of the behavioural repertoire of laying hens kept under commercial conditions. A special form of nest box use is gregarious nesting, which occurs when a hen given the choice between an occupied and an unoccupied nest site chooses the occupied nest site. Knowledge about gregarious nesting behaviour is limited, but welfare problems likely to be associated with it are scratches/wounds, heat stress, increased level of aggression, and excessive expenditure of energy. The benefits of the producer may also be affected by gregarious nesting due to an increased risk of broken or dirty eggs. The main objectives were to investigate the use of nest boxes according to their position and the occurrence of gregarious nesting with age. Twelve groups of 15 Isa Warren hens were housed in pens each containing three adjacent roll-out nest boxes only differing in position (left+corner, middle, and right). Nesting behaviour was video recorded for 5 days in each of five distinct periods: age 20, 26, 32, 38, and 44 weeks. The total number of visits and the number of gregarious visits were higher in the left nest box than in the other two nest boxes at all ages and higher at age 20 weeks than at the other ages (PApplied Animal Behaviour Science - APPL ANIM BEHAV SCI. 01/2010; 123(1):24-31.
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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.Applied Animal Behaviour Science - APPL ANIM BEHAV SCI. 01/2007; 105(1):154-164.
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ABSTRACT: Environmental enrichment falls into four general categories: foraging opportunities, structural complexity, sensory stimulation/novelty, and social companionship. Each may have distinct behavioural effects. We examined the use of these four enrichment types, and their effects on activity budgets (foraging, general activity, pacing), social proximity preference (time spent observing companions through a window), and fear (flight distance in a predator surprise test, consumption of novel food) in adult Japanese quail. Foraging and structural enrichments were used extensively (29 and 26% of scans, respectively), as were the dustbaths available in all pens (16%). Use of enrichments and the dustbath was consistent over 24h and over 17 d (partial r>0.42, pApplied Animal Behaviour Science - APPL ANIM BEHAV SCI. 01/2005; 95(3):169-187.