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  • 1 Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry Department of Animal Morphology, Physiology and Genetics Zemedelska 1 613 00 Brno Czech Republic
  • 2 Slovak Academy of Sciences Institute of Experimental Endocrinology Bratislava Slovak Republic
  • 3 University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Department of Nutrition, Animal Husbandry and Animal Hygiene Brno Czech Republic
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The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that keeping laying hens in an enriched environment supposed to represent a better welfare for the birds is accompanied by decreased corticosterone levels, compared to hens kept under traditional conditions. Plasma corticosterone levels in hens reared in standard and enriched cages and those kept on deep litter from 15 to 75 weeks of age were evaluated. The highest corticosterone levels were observed in hens kept on deep litter, which was associated with a lower intensity of egg production, longest time of movement and a high percentage of time spent dustbathing and scratching. Hens housed in the enriched environment exhibited low levels of aggression, low body weight at the end of the experiment and similar or higher corticosterone levels compared to those of hens kept under standard conditions. Thus, the results of the present study show that housing technologies which are more similar to the animal’s natural environment need not be associated with decreased levels of plasma corticosterone. Keeping hens in traditional cage technology was not found to be particularly stressful, which may be an important finding with respect to the current restrictions on outside housing in regions with an increased risk of viral infection.

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