Improving aviary designs by observing laying hen locomotor development and determining navigational preferences
This thesis focused on the development of locomotor, perching, and physical activity patterns of four strains of laying hens in a complex three-dimensional system. Video observations of chicks (1-9 weeks of age) showed that chicks performed more locomotor events on the ground than on elevated surfaces and performed more locomotive and perching events on leveled surfaces than inclined surfaces (ramps/ladders). Elevated surface use began at 8 days of age. Accelerometers showed that birds (10-37 weeks of age) allocated 70%, 22%, and 8% of their time towards moderate-, low-, and high-intensity physical activities, respectively. Pullets performed the greatest amount of high-intensity activity. Our Random Forest prediction accuracy for physical activities was 98. To provide proper locomotor development for layer-hen chicks, I recommend elevated surfaces connected via surfaces with moderate incline angles. Overall these finding provide insight that developing chicks preferentially use lower elevations and moderate activity when navigating a complex aviary.