Jones, R. B., McAdie, Tina M., McCorquodale, C. and Keeling, L. J. (2002) Pecking at other birds and at string enrichment devices by adult laying hens. British Poultry Science, 43 (3). pp. 337-343. ISSN 0007-1668

1. Bunches of white string (polypropylene twine) are particularly attractive pecking stimuli for both chicks and adult laying hens. Furthermore, these devices can retain the birds' interest over lengthy periods. It has also been demonstrated that birds with trimmed feathers elicit feather pecking. The present study was designed to determine whether string devices would retain their attractiveness in the presence of a competing stimulus: a trimmed hen.
2. Lohmann Brown hens were reared in 20 groups of 5 in floor pens with perches from 17 weeks of age. They were exposed to one of two treatments when they were 23 weeks old. One hen was removed from every pen and the feathers on her rump were trimmed. Immediately before her return two string devices were suspended from a perch in treatment 1 whereas no devices were included in treatment 2. Pecking behaviours were immediately observed for 30 min; this procedure was repeated later that day. The devices remained in the pens used in treatment 1 and these birds were observed again for 15 min after 14 d.
3. The string devices were pecked earlier and more than either the trimmed or untrimmed hens. Furthermore, the devices were still being pecked 2 weeks after their introduction.
4. The virtual absence of severe feather pecking and of aggressive head pecks precluded test of our hypothesis that the devices would divert potentially injurious pecking away from other birds. However, the fact that the birds showed sustained interest in the devices, even in the presence of a competing stimulus, supports our proposal that string may represent a practicable and effective form of environmental enrichment.

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