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A UHF RFID System for Studying Individual Feeding and Nesting Behaviors of Group-Housed Laying Hens

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

Citation:  2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting  162461664.(doi:10.13031/aim.20162461664)
Authors:   Lihua Li, Yang Zhao, Jofran Oliveira, Hongwei Xin
Keywords:   Feeding behaviors, UHF RFID, Enriched colony housing, Animal well-being

Abstract. Enriched colony housing (ECH) is a relatively new egg production system. As such, information is lacking in terms of certain design parameters to ensure well-being of the birds and optimal utilization of the resources. A new system has been developed at Iowa State University that enables automated monitoring and quantification of feeding and nesting behaviors of individual laying hens in ECH. Ultra-high-frequency radio frequency identification (UHF RFID) is employed to track the individual birds. The UHF RFID system consists of four components – readers, antennas, data acquisition system, and tags. The antennas for feeders are placed inside the two feed troughs and covered with plastic plates. Each feed trough has six antennas aligned in series covering the length of the feeder. Four antennas were placed inside the nest box. All 16 antennas are connected to four 4-channel readers that are connected to the hosting computer via Ethernet connection. This paper describes the development and test of the RFID system for feeding behavior monitoring and shows some sample data. The nesting behavior system and its results are presented in another companion paper. We concluded that the system can be used to characterize benchmark feeding behaviors of individual hens in ECH, such as daily time spent at the feeder, number of hens feeding simultaneously, number of visits to the feeder per hen each day, and variability in these parameters among the individual hens. Future applications of the system include how resource allocation and management practices impact feeding behaviors and well-being of the hens. Such information will provide the scientific basis for optimal design and management of alternative hen housing systems.

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