My project focuses on the behavior of individual hens within large groups. Using state-of-the-art tracking that locates each animal within commercially relevant housing, my focus is on how individuals use the different areas (e.g. time in the litter area versus outside in the winter garden). As we are tracking the animals over the entire laying phase, a period of 45 weeks, we can see how stable individual routines are over time and what factors may be associated with changes. For instance, we collected different health measures like keel bone fractures which we believe would induce an animal to move less.
I will also be looking to see if animals move throughout the barn in similar ways at similar times, an outcome that could suggest the existence of social networks. Once this is established, it will be interesting to see how health status, genetics, rearing pen, and other likely factors play a role in the formation of these subgroups and their stability over time.