PhD position, UK (deadline June 19)

 10th May 2022

PhD on "Laying hen welfare, space use and housing design" 

Bristol Veterinary School, University of Bristol
Bristol, UK 

This aim of this project is to improve the welfare of laying hens, by informing our understanding of hen behaviour and the way in which hens use their housing.

More than half of eggs produced in the UK come from free range systems, which are considered to be the gold-standard for animal welfare. However, it is not always clear that all hens in a flock are accessing the facilities available to them in free range systems; for example, a high proportion of hens often appear not to access their range. Thus welfare problems remain: injurious pecking is common, and mortality can be higher and more variable in these systems, with implications for efficiency and sustainability.

The aim of this project is to improve our understanding of the way in which hens use their facilities, together with the inside and outside spaces available to them, and how this is affected by housing design, in particular, verandas. We will record video sequences of flocks and utilise approaches based on optic flow in order to analyse movement. We will then compare movement patterns, welfare and productivity in a variety of free range system designs.

The successful candidate will be based at the University of Bristol, Bristol Veterinary School, Langford, as part of a large, friendly and supportive animal welfare research community. The candidate will collect behaviour and health data through direct observation and video recording. Training will be provided as necessary in behavioural observation, and the statistical methods necessary for analysis. The candidate will provide reports for the industry funder, Stonegate Farmers Ltd., and recommendations for the design of laying hen housing systems, intended to improve hen welfare.

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