On-farm evaluation of an automatic enrichment device with maize silage for laying hens
Challenges in alternative housing for laying hens are barren functional areas such as winter gardens and the occurrence of behavioral disorders. Environmental enrichment is a measure to deal with these problems. Therefore, an enrichment device offering maize silage automatically was tested in two winter gardens on-farm. The use of the winter gardens and the times individual hens stayed there and occupied themselves with the maize silage were determined in a temporary preference test. The proportion of residing hens was significantly larger in the enriched winter garden. The mean time individual hens stayed in the enriched winter garden ranged from 02:16 ± 02:22 (mm:ss) to 03:17 ± 02:27, whereas the time ranged from 00:18 ± 00:32 to 00:59 ± 01:19 in the other winter garden (p < .05). Once the enrichment device ran in both winter gardens, no differences were found between the observed parameters. On average, the hens occupied themselves with the enrichment material for 03:50 ± 02:12 to 05:01 ± 03:06. Thus, based on its use and acceptance by the laying hens, the automatic device provided adequate environmental enrichment.
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