- Poultry welfare
- Reproductive behaviour
- Housing and husbandry
- Social behaviour
- Behaviour genetics
- Animal personality
The genetic background of broiler breeders creates a challenge for optimal production. On the one hand the breeder stock is selected for fast growth of the offspring, while on the other hand optimal reproduction traits are desired. The challenge is created by the fact that these two characteristics move in opposite direction during selection. It seems that the costs of selecting for growth characteristics has affected the nesting behaviour of the hens, as floor laying and suboptimal spread over provided nest boxes are often seen in practice. Despite the economic importance of understanding and minimising these issues, little research has been done on nesting behaviour of broiler breeders.
To be able to understand the altered nesting behaviour of broiler breeder hens, the Motivation Ability Opportunity (MAO) model creates a framework to discriminate between the different factors influencing behaviour. In order to motivate hens to lay their egg in the nest rather than outside of it, the nest should be designed according to their preferences. This preference might be related to personality traits. Besides having motivation, the hen must also have the ability to perform nesting behaviour. Broiler breeders are prone to develop foot lesions and leg weakness, which might limit their ability to reach the nest. Even when the hen is motivated and able to reach the nest, she might not
have the opportunity to lay her eggs in the nest due to interfering social interactions.
The aims of this research are twofold. Firstly, we aim to gain knowledge on underlying mechanisms of nesting behaviour such as preference, personality, genetics and social interactions. The second aim is to create practical improvements on housing design in order to reduce the number of cracked and floor eggs in practice. Therefor this research will combine small scale experiments with tests in commercial settings.