Rufener, C., Rentsch, A. K., Stratmann, A. et al. 2020. Perch positioning affects both laying hen locomotion and forces experienced at the keel. Animals 10(7), 1223.
The aim of this study was to assess the effect of perch positioning on laying hens’ locomotion and the resulting energy experienced at the keel. Twenty Nick Chick and 20 Brown Nick hens were trained to transition from a platform to a perch in several configurations. Three variables of perch positioning were tested in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design: direction (upward vs. downward), angle (flat vs. steep), and distance (50 cm vs. 100 cm). All hens were tested for five jumps of each treatment combination at 27–28 weeks of age. As predicted, we found steep angles and long distances to result in higher peak forces and impulse during take-off, flight, and landing; longer latency to jump; a higher likelihood to perform balancing movements; and a longer latency to peck at the provided food reward. The effect of perch positioning on locomotion and force at the keel during downwards jumps and flight was more pronounced in Brown Nick hens than in Nick Chick hens. Although we cannot state how the observed forces at the keel relate to the risk for keel bone fractures, our results indicated that optimizing perch positioning can reduce accumulated forced at the keel and consequent risk for fracture due to unsuccessful transitions.