As more operations move to group housing systems it becomes even more important to understand hen behavior within a group. Using Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) on hens in Enriched Colony Housing (ECH) systems, researchers have been able to begin to quantify items like time spent in the nest box, number of visits to the nest box per egg laid, and percent of eggs laid in scratch pad areas or perch areas. The goal of this work is to enhance the next generation of equipment by improving nest box design.
While research is on-going, preliminary results show that laying hens in ECH systems spent, on average, 56 minutes inside the next box either laying eggs or exploring the area. This amounted to approximately 17 visits per day, which was higher than expected. While a majority (93%) of the eggs are laid in the nest box, 4.4% of the eggs were laid in the scratch area and 2.9% were laid in the perch area. Additionally, researchers found that the nest box maximum capacity occurred 5-6 hours after the lights were turned on.
More experiments are forthcoming, as well as a peer-reviewed journal article.