Colson, S., Arnould, C., Michel, V. 2007. Motivation to dust-bathe of laying hens housed in cages and in aviaries. Animal 1(3), 433-437.
New housing systems for commercial egg production, furnished cages and non-cage systems, should improve the welfare of laying hens. In particular, thanks to the presence of a litter area, these new housing systems are thought to satisfy the dust-bathing motivation of hens more than in conventional cages, in which no litter area is present. However, although apparently obvious, there is no concrete evidence that non-cage systems, particularly aviaries, satisfy hens' motivation to dust-bathe and thus improve hens' welfare in terms of dust-bathing behaviour. The aim of this study was to compare hens' dust-bathing motivation when housed for a long time under similar conditions to commercial conditions in laying aviaries (with litter) and in conventional cages (without litter). Three treatments were compared: hens reared in floor pens then housed in conventional cages, hens reared in furnished floor pens then housed in a laying aviary, and hens reared in rearing aviaries then housed in a laying aviary. All three treatments provided access to litter during the rearing period. After transfer to the laying systems, access to litter was maintained for the aviary hens but stopped for the cage hens. Twelve groups of four hens per treatment were tested 36 to 43 weeks after transfer. The hens were placed in sawdust-filled testing arenas, and latency to dust-bathe, duration and number of dust baths, and number of hens dust-bathing were recorded. Latency to dust-bathe was shorter, dust baths were longer and more numerous and more hens dust-bathed among cage hens than among aviary hens. Our results indicate that hens' motivation to dust-bathe was more satisfied in laying aviaries than in conventional cages. Thus, laying aviaries improve hens' welfare in term of dust-bathing behaviour compared with conventional cages.