Type: Chapter

The role of perches in chicken welfare


Lars Schrader

Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry – Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Germany)

Julia Malchow

Institute of Animal Welfare and Animal Husbandry – Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (Germany)

Publication date:

28 September 2020

ID: 9781786768766

E-Chapter format

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This chapter reviews the current knowledge on perching behaviour of chickens. During nighttime, chickens are highly motivated for elevated resting. During daytime chickens often perform vulnerable behaviours on elevated structures. Access to elevated structures can reduce fearfulness in chickens and the main motivation underlying this innate behaviour seems seeking for shelter against predators. Perching behaviour is developing within the first weeks after hatch and is related to morphological, perceptive and cognitive developments of chickens. The anatomic adaptation of the chickens’ feet to walking as their predominant type of locomotion and findings from behavioural studies suggest that the height is more important than the surface or other features of resting sites. All chickens benefit from access to elevated structures but the specific abilities and needs of layers, broiler chickens and certain genetics must be taken into account. Future technical improvements can result in benefits for both the chickens and the farmers.

Table of contents

1 Introduction
2 Why do chickens perch?
3 Ontogeny of perching
4 Anatomic prerequisites for perching
5 Properties of perches: the chicken's view
6 Elevated structures in pullet and layer housing
7 Elevated structures in broiler housing
8 Conclusions
9 Future trends in research
10 References