Clustering and synchrony in laying hens: The effect of environmental resources on social dynamics

Lisa Collins, David Asher, D.U. Pfeiffer, W.J. Browne, C.J. Nicol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Laying hens generally choose to aggregate, but the extent to which the environments in which we house them impact on social group dynamics is not known. In this paper the effect of pen environment on spatial clustering is considered. Twelve groups of four laying hens were studied under three environmental conditions: wire floor (W), shavings (Sh) and perches, peat, nestbox and shavings (PPN). Groups experienced each environment twice, for five weeks each time, in a systematic order that varied from group to group. Video recordings were made one day per week for 30 weeks. To determine level of clustering, we recorded positional data from a randomly selected 20-min excerpt per video (a total of 20 min x 360 videos analysed). On screen, pens were divided into six equal areas. In addition, PPN pens were divided into an additional four (sub) areas, to account for the use of perches (one area per half perch). Every 5 s, we recorded the location of each bird and calculated location use over time, feeding synchrony and cluster scores for each environment. Feeding synchrony and cluster scores were compared against unweighted and weighted (according to observed proportional location use) Poisson distributions to distinguish between resource and social attraction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Food Animals


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