Induced molting in egg-laying hens is an important method for maximizing hen egg production and quality as well as hen health in commercial settings; however, there is growing societal concern over its effects on hen well-being. Using individual hens as their own controls, this research examined the behavior of hens subjected to different treatments of induced molting under premolt, molt, and postmolt conditions. Cage pecking increased in fast-induced subjects and aggression increased in fast-induced and nonfast-induced subjects during the molt. Gakel calling and several aspects of its acoustic structure were much higher during the molt condition in fast-induced subjects only. These data suggest that nonfast-induced molting treatments provide an effective method for inducing molting in hens and improving their well-being by minimizing discomfort due to food deprivation. In addition, these data further support that gakel vocalizations in hens may serve as an effective indicator for assessing well-being in a species otherwise behaviorally stoic in expressing stress or discomfort.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The project was funded by grants from the Veterinary Medicine Extension and the Center for Food Animal Health at the University of California at Davis. The research was reviewed and approved by the institutional animal care and use committee under Protocol No. 9539. We thank Karen Tonooka, Christina VanWorth, Brigid McCrea, and Kelly Weaver for their help on this project.