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An RFID-Based Automated Individual Perching Monitoring System for Group-Housed Poultry

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 62(3): 695-704. (doi: 10.13031/trans.13105) @2019
Authors:   Kailao Wang, Kai Liu, Hongwei Xin, Lilong Chai, Yu Wang, Tao Fei, Jofran Oliveira, Jinming Pan, Yibin Ying
Keywords:   Individual perching behavior, Laying hen, Load cell, Precision livestock farming, RFID, Welfare.

Abstract. Perching is a natural behavior of poultry. Considerable research has been done to explore the relationship between group overall perch usage and well-being of laying hens. To quantify the potential cause-effect relationship on individual hens with different health or well-being status (e.g., keel bone deformation, foot pad lesion, social ranking) in a group, it is necessary to identify the perching behavior of individual birds. However, continuously monitoring individual birds in a group poses considerable challenges. To enable such research and potential commercial application, this study developed and validated a radio frequency identification (RFID) based automated perching monitoring system (APMS) for characterizing individual perching behaviors of group-housed poultry. The APMS consisted of an RFID module, a load cell module, and a round wooden perch. The RFID module was comprised of a high-frequency RFID reader, three customized rectangular antennas placed under the perch, and RFID transponders attached to the birds. The load cell module was comprised of a data acquisition system and two load cells supporting both ends of the perch. The daily number of perch visits (PV) and perching duration (PD) for individual birds were used to delineate perching behavior. Three identical experimental pens, five hens per pen, were equipped with the monitoring system. Two RFID transponders were attached to each hen (one per leg), and a distinct color was marked on the bird‘s head for video or visual identification and validation. Performance of the APMS was validated by comparing the system outputs with manual observation and labeling over an entire day. Sensitivity and specificity of the system were shown to improve from 97.77% and 99.88%, respectively when using only the RFID module to 99.83% and 99.93% when incorporating weight information from the load cell module. Using this system, we conducted a preliminary trial on the relationship of perching behavior and body weight of laying hens, which revealed little effect of body weight but considerable variability in perching behavior among the individual hens. The study demonstrated that the APMS had excellent performance in measuring perching behaviors of individual birds in a group. The APMS offers great potential for delineating individual differences in perching behavior among hens with different social status or health conditions in a group setting.

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