Cage-Reared Hens Show Impaired Spatial Awareness

NORWAY - Differences in the complexity of the rearing environment between cages and aviaries impact on the short-term memory of laying hens, and their ability to navigate their environment, according to a study from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU).
calendar icon 9 April 2015
clock icon 2 minute read

The study, in collaboration with Utrecht University in the Netherlands, showed that birds reared in the more complex aviary environment were better able to locate rewards in a spatial cognition test.

The aviary-reared birds had a larger space to move around in and needed to be able to remember more locations, such as elevated feeding perches.

The test looked at the ability of the birds to find mealworm-baited cups in an arena, the ability to learn the location of the baited cups, and then their ability to learn new locations when the baited cups were moved.

The behaviour of the birds was recorded on video cameras and the number of visits the birds paid to the cups was measured to define their cup-visiting strategies.

Most of the birds managed to learn the task, but the birds brought up in the less complex cage environment took longer to find the rewards, particularly during the part of the experiment where the locations of the mealworms were altered.

The caged birds were also measured as having poorer levels of working memory.

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