Putyora, E., Brocklehurst, S., Sandilands, V. 2023. The effects of commercially-relevant disturbances on sleep behaviour in laying hens. Animals 13(19), 3105.

Ensuring the welfare of commercially kept animals is a legal and ethical responsibility. Sleep behaviour can be sensitive to environmental perturbations and may be useful in assessing welfare state. The objective of this study was to use behavioural and electrophysiological (EEG) measures to observe the effects of 24 h stressors followed by periods of no stressors on laying hen sleep behaviour, and to investigate the use of sleep behaviour as a means of welfare assessment in commercial poultry. Ten laying hens surgically implanted with EEG devices to record their brain activity over four batches were used. Hens were subjected to undisturbed, disturbed and recovery periods for 24 h. Disturbed periods consisted of either feed deprivation, increased ambient temperature (28 °C) or simulated footpad pain via injection of Freund’s adjuvant into the footpad. Sleep state was scored using behaviour data from infrared cameras and EEG data. Over all periods, hens engaged in both SWS (average 60%) and REM sleep (average 12%) during the lights-off period. Feed deprivation and footpad pain had little to no effect on sleep states, while increased ambient temperature significantly reduced REM sleep (to near elimination, p < 0.001) and SWS (p = 0.017). During the lights-on period, footpad pain increased the proportion of time spent resting (p = 0.008) and in SWS (p < 0.001), with feed deprivation or increased ambient temperature (p > 0.05) having no effect. Increasing ambient temperatures are likely to affect sleep and welfare in commercially-kept laying hens in the face of global climate change.

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