ANIMAL HUSBANDRY 298 62 LANDTECHNIK SH/2007 Devices to Individually and Automatically Record the Performance and Behaviour Parameters of Laying Hens in Group Housing Systems

Georg Wendl, Stefan Thurner, Georg Fröhlich, Stephan Böck, Robert Weinfurtner, Freising
C urrently the laying hen husbandry is facing a change. Due to the new hus-bandry directives, according to the regulations at the federal and EU-level [5, 7], increasingly floor and free-range systems are in operation. Besides the social behaviour, which is also important for enriched cages, nest box and free range acceptance gain more importance in floor and free-range husbandry systems. So far information according to this context has been or could only be collected for the whole flock, but
more » ... whole flock, but not for the individual hen [1, 6]. However, data related to individuals are necessary, because they are the basis for calculating breeding parameters and thus needed for a selection of adapted hybrids [3]. Therefore the objectives of the project were to develop and evaluate systems for an automatic and individual recording of the ranging behaviour, the laying behaviour and the laying performance of all hens in a flock, using the RFID-technology. Material and methods For the recording of the free-range behaviour the Electronic Pop Hole (EPH) and for the recording of the laying behaviour and performance the Funnel Nest Box (FNB) were developed. Both systems are based on the individual electronic animal identification with low frequency glass transponders (ac-cording to ISO 11784/11785), which were inserted into a leg ring. The EPH (Fig. 1) was designed in a way that only single hens, one after the other, could pass through the pop hole. During the passage the hens are registered at two antennas, embedded in the approaching board. With the chronology of the readings, the direction of the passage can be determined. The FNB (Fig. 2) was designed as a single nest box, which can be divided in three major areas, the approaching slat, the nest box and the egg collecting device. The hens enter the nest box from the approaching slat through the trap device, which separates the hens and locks the occupied nest box. The antenna, which reads the transponder at the hen's leg, is embedded in the funnel nest floor. Furthermore the funnel shaped nest floor guarantees that every egg rolls out of the nest box and can be registered at the mechanical egg sensor behind the nest immediately after laying. Thereafter the eggs are collected in the order of laying in the egg collecting tube throughout the day. The assignment "hen-egg" can be achieved by combining the position of the egg with the egg sensor signal and the transponder signal. Each antenna in the pop hole and nest box is connected to a single RFID-module, whereas all RFID-modules are synchronised. Four antennas respectively four RFID-modules are integrated in a fourfold reader unit [2]. All reader units consist of eight sensor inputs, where the signals of the seesaw egg sensors are registered. Via a RS485 bus-system , up to 50 reader units can be connected To automatically record the ranging and laying behaviour, as well as the laying performance, an electronic pop hole and an electronic laying nest box were developed and evaluated. Both systems make it possible to gather data exactly from each individual animal over longer periods of time with low labour input.