Close human presence reduces avoidance behaviour in commercial caged laying hens to an approaching human
Edwards, L.E.; Coleman, G.J.; Hemsworth, P.H.
Citation:Edwards, L. E., Coleman, G. J., and Hemsworth, P. H. (2013). Close human presence reduces avoidance behaviour in commercial caged laying hens to an approaching human. Animal Production Science. 53 : 1276-1282.
Permanent link to Research Bank record:http://hdl.handle.net/10652/2643
The quality of human contact that hens are exposed to will determine the degree of fear of humans that they experience. This has consequences for the welfare of commercial laying hens, as hens that are afraid of humans will be regularly exposed to a fear-provoking stressor. Hens can be habituated to human presence using positive or neutral human–animal interactions, although the specific human behaviours that are considered positive or neutral by the hens are still being determined. This experiment investigated whether the proximity or duration of visual contact with a human affected fear of humans in commercial caged laying hens (n = 216). Commercial laying hens were exposed to daily visual human contact at one of three proximities (0, 0.75 or 1.50 m) and one of three durations (2, 30 or 90 s) in a 3 by 3 factorial design for a period of 28 days. Avoidance behaviour was assessed on Days –5, 15 and 30, and the plasma corticosterone response to handling was assessed on Days –5 and Day 30. Visual contact with a stationary human at close proximity (0 m) significantly (P = 0.03) reduced the avoidance response of commercial laying hens to an approaching human, although there was no clear effect of proximity on corticosterone response to handling. The duration of human contact had no effect on avoidance behaviour or corticosterone response. Stockpeople may consider working more closely to the cages in a nonthreatening manner to reduce fear of humans in their flock.