A wing-assisted incline running exercise regime during rearing increases initial flight velocity during descent in adult white- and brown-feathered laying hens

Grace A.T. Hong, Bret W. Tobalske, Nienke van Staaveren, Emily M. Leishman, Tina Widowski, Donald R. Powers, Alexandra Harlander-Matauschek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Domestic laying hens rely primarily on their hindlimbs for terrestrial locomotion. Although they perform flapping flight, they appear to use maximal power during descent and thus may lack control for maneuvering and avoiding injuries on landing. This in turn may result in injury in open rearing systems. Wing-assisted incline running (WAIR) requires a bird to use its wings to assist the hindlimbs during climbing of an incline, and training in WAIR may therefore provide a useful method to increase a hen's power reserve and control for flight. We subjected hens to an exercise regimen involving inclines to induce WAIR for 16 wk during rearing. We then measured wing and body kinematics during aerial descent from a 155 cm platform. We hypothesized that birds reared with exercise would be better able to modulate their wing and body kinematics for making slower, more-controlled descent and landing. Brown-feathered birds exhibited greater wing beat frequencies than white-feathered birds, which is consistent with the higher wing loading of brown-feathered birds and WAIR-trained birds exhibited greater initial flight velocities compared to control birds. This may indicate that WAIR training provided an improved capacity to modulate flight velocity and strengthen the leg muscles. Providing incline exercises during rearing may therefore improve welfare for adult laying hens as greater initial flight velocity should reduce the power required for supporting body weight in the air and allow a hen to direct her excess power toward maneuvering.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103375
Pages (from-to)103375
JournalPoultry Science
Volume103
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Keywords

  • aerial locomotion
  • body kinematics
  • chickens
  • flight
  • wing kinematic

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