Astroturf as a dustbathing substrate for laying hens
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Furnished cages for laying hens often contain an Astroturf (AT) pad which may be sprinkled with feed to promote foraging and dustbathing. We evaluated AT and AT plus feed (ATF) to determine if hens use these substrates for dustbathing. Hens (N=. 30) without prior exposure to substrate were housed singly in cages at 34 weeks of age. Using a 3. . 3 Latin square design, groups of 10 hens were provided with a dustbox containing either sand (control), an AT pad, or an AT pad with 200. g of feed (ATF) delivered daily, with three 20-day treatment Periods. The treatment order was: sand-ATF-AT (1); ATF-AT-sand (2); AT-sand-ATF (3). Behavior was recorded for 8 or 9 days each Period, from 11:00 to 22:00. h. Three measures of dustbathing were evaluated: bout number per day, bout length, and total time spent dustbathing per day. Data were collected and processed to evaluate dustbathing activity in the substrate, on the wire floor and in both locations combined (overall). Data were analyzed using the GLM or Kruskal-Wallis and Dwass-Steel-Critchlow-Fligner tests. Although there were some differences in statistical significance between Periods, in general hens provided with sand exhibited fewer bouts both overall and on wire, and longer bouts both overall and one wire, than AT or ATF hens, and longer bouts both overall and in substrate than AT. Hens with sand also spent significantly (all P. 0.04) more time dustbathing on substrate (median min. =. 18.71. . 5.16) and less time on wire (0.59. . 1.56) than AT (0.33. . 2.62 and 13.39. . 7.15, respectively) and ATF (2.05. . 4.43 and 11.26. . 4.37, respectively) treatments during Period 1, and also more time dustbathing on substrate (7.66. . 8.13) than hens in the AT treatment (0.00. . 2.52) during Period 2. Exposure to AT and ATF during the first two treatment periods reduced hens' use of sand during the third treatment period, with only 11% of bouts occurring in sand during Period 3 as compared to 64% and 41% during Periods 1 and 2, respectively. These findings demonstrated that AT did not provide an adequate dustbathing substrate, even with the addition of feed, as hens were less likely to dustbathe on both AT and ATF than sand, and were also less likely to dustbathe on sand if they were initially exposed to AT and ATF as dustbathing substrates. 2013 Elsevier B.V.