Agroscope, Institute for Plant Production Sciences IPS, 1260 Nyon, Switzerland

Ethological bases for species appropriate housing of japanese quails

Japanese quails (Coturnix japonica) kept for egg and meat production are typically housed in battery cages. In such intensive systems several welfare problems occur. Part of the results of a research project that aimed at developing an alternative housing system are presented. Groups of eight to nine quails were observed in Semi-natural outdoor aviaries. The results indicate that the behaviour of the domestic quail has not been profoundly altered compared to the behaviour of the wild quail. Housing systems adapted to the normal behaviour of quails should therefore contain a substrate for scratching, pecking and dustbathing and nest boxes as enclosed sites for egg laying. Two experiments concerning the design of nest boxes are presented. Cover, substrate in the nest box and light intensity proved to be important factors influencing the incidence of floor eggs. At best the percentage of floor eggs was 11 %.<br>In breeding groups none of the factors tested (visual barriers, age at which the quails were introduced into the experimental pens, number of hens per five cocks, number of cocks per 14 hens, light intensity) had a significant influence on pecking rates between cocks. Breeding groups should therefore not contain more than one cock. Our results indicate that it should be feasible to develop alternative housing systems which may replace conventional battery cages.

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