Analysis of landing behaviour of three layer lines on different perch designs
1. The prevalence of keel bone deformities in laying hens is high and is partly associated with unsuitable perch designs, which impose a risk of injury due to an unstable footing. 2. Over two experiments, 9 or 10 hens of each of three layer lines (Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL), Lohmann Tradition (LT) and Lohmann Brown (LB)) were filmed while landing on three different perch types, including steel perches of various diameters, a commercial mushroom-shaped plastic perch and a newly developed prototype perch with a soft surface material. 3. Data on landing behaviour (safe vs. unsafe or failed landing) following downward jumps were collected for 25, 50 and 60 cm vertical distances and 75 cm horizontal distance between a wooden start perch and the different destination perches. 4. The highest proportion of safe landings occurred on the prototype perch, whereas least safe landings were observed on steel perches, irrespective of their diameter. The mushroom-shaped perch was intermediate with regard to the safeness of landing. 5. A threshold of 50 cm vertical distance (34° slope) was identified as the optimum for downward jumps on perches in order to reduce the risk of unsafe or failed landings. Above this threshold, the proportion of safe landings declined significantly. 6. Brown shell layer types (LB and LT) had a lower proportion of safe landings compared to the white shell layer type (LSL), whereas no difference was found between LB and LT layer lines. 7. Although steel perches prevail in commercial housing, these perches were found to be least advantageous with regard to landing behaviour. The prototype perch provided the most stable footing on perching and is a promising alternative to replace commercial steel perches, thus helping to reduce the risk of perch-related keel bone injury.