Use of space by domestic chicks housed in complex aviaries

Madison Kozak, Bret Tobalske, Candace Martins, Stephen Bowley, Hanno Wuerbel, Alexandra Harlander-Matauschek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


To improve the understanding of the development of locomotor capacity in layer hens, we measured how female laying hen chicks (n = 120) of four different strains (LSL-lite, Hyline Brown, Dekalb White, Lohmann Brown; 3 groups of 10 chicks per line) utilized the ground, the air, elevated horizontal (platforms and perches) and inclined surfaces (ramps and ladders) in an aviary until 9 weeks of age. We used infra-red video recordings to perform all-occurrences sampling of locomotive behavioural and perching events that occurred on the ground—where bedding material, food and water were provided, in the air, and on elevated horizontal and inclined surfaces within weekly 30-min sampling periods. Chicks preferred level ground during the first week of life compared to weeks 5–9 (P < 0.0001) and performed 52% of all behavioural events in this section. Elevated surface use began at 2 weeks of age and increased over time (P = 0.003), where most behaviour was performed in S2 (45% of all events). Chicks preferred horizontal to inclined surfaces, which were used from weeks 2–5 with maximum use occurring during weeks 2 and 3. Lohmann LSL chicks used the space above the ground most frequently (P = 0.05) and performed more aerial ascent/descent behaviour than other lines (P < 0.0001). Overall activity levels declined with age (P < 0.0001). In summary layer chicks almost exclusively locomoted on the ground but utilized elevated horizontal surfaces (perch, first platform) as early as 2 weeks. These results provide information for improving space use in rearing aviaries by introducing lower perches, platforms and ramps/ladders to accommodate age-dependent locomotor abilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Aviary
  • Chicks
  • Gallus gallus domesticus
  • Incline
  • Laying hen
  • Locomotion


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