Nesting Behaviors and Egg Production Pattern of Laying Hens in Enriched Colony Housing

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Oliveira, Jofran
Zhao, Yang
Li, Lihua
Liu, Kai
Glaess, Kaesey
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Xin, Hongwei
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Alternative housing systems for laying hens are increasingly adopted by the US egg industry. However, information still lacks with regards to behavioral and production responses of the hens to resources allocation in such alternative housing systems. The objective of this study was to characterize the nesting behavior and the location of eggs laid in an enriched colony housing (ECH) system. The experiment was conducted in laboratory scale, involving an ECH commercial module with the capacity of 60 hens per colony. The nesting behaviors were evaluated using an ultra-high frequency radio-frequency identification (UHF RFID) system that consists of four antennas located inside the nest box, one reader, and 60 individual transponders (one per bird) attached to the hen legs. The following behaviors were quantified: time spent in the nest box, maximum number of hen occupancy, oviposition time and place, daily number of visits to the nest box, and number of visits per egg laid in the nest box. Preliminary results to date show that laying hens in the ECH spent on average 56 (±5) (mean ±SE) minutes inside nest box during laying or exploring visits and made an average of 17.8 (±1.4) visits per day. The number of visits per egg laid in the nest box was 21.3 (±0.6). The maximum occupancy averaged 11.0 (±0.5) birds, which occurred within 5-6 hours after the light was turned on. Most of the daily eggs (92.7 ±1.5%) were laid in the nest box, while 4.4 (±1.1) % eggs were laid in the scratch area, and 2.9 (±0.4) % in the perches area. Data collection and analysis is continuing. Information derived from this study is expected to provide insight into better design of nest box for laying hens.


This paper is from 2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting, Paper No. 162456546, pages 1-8 (doi: 10.13031/aim.20162456546). St. Joseph, Mich.: ASABE. Posted with permission.

Fri Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2016