Spitzer, H. B., Meagher, R. K., Proudfoot, K. L. 2022. The impact of providing hiding spaces to farmed animals: A scoping review. PLoS ONE 17(11), e0277665.
Many wild animals perform hiding behaviours for a variety of reasons, such as evading predators or other conspecifics. Unlike their wild counterparts, farmed animals often live in relatively barren environments without the opportunity to hide. Researchers have begun to study the impact of access to hiding spaces (“hides”) in farmed animals, including possible effects on animal welfare. The aims of this scoping review were to: 1) identify the farmed species that have been most used in research investigating the provision of hides, 2) describe the context in which hides have been provided to farmed animals, and 3) describe the impact (positive, negative or neutral/inconclusive) that hides have on animals, including indicators of animal welfare. Three online databases (CAB Abstracts, Web of Science, and PubMed) were used to search for a target population of farmed animals with access to hiding spaces. From this search, 4,631 citations were screened and 151 were included in the review. Fourteen animal types were represented, most commonly chickens (48% of papers), cattle (9%), foxes (8%), and fish (7%). Relatively few papers were found on other species including deer, quail, ducks, lobsters, turkeys, and goats. Hides were used in four contexts: at parturition or oviposition (56%), for general enrichment (43%), for neonatal animals (4%), or for sick or injured animals (1%). A total of 218 outcomes relevant to our objectives were found including 7 categories: hide use, motivation, and/or preference (47% of outcomes), behavioural indicators of affective state (17%), health, injuries, and/or production (16%), agonistic behaviour (8%), abnormal repetitive behaviours (6%), physiological indicators of stress (5%), and affiliative behaviours (1%). Hiding places resulted in 162 positive (74%), 14 negative (6%), and 42 neutral/inconclusive (19%) outcomes. Hides had a generally positive impact on the animals included in this review; more research is encouraged for under-represented species.