Episode 124      34 min 01 sec
Of dogs and hens: Researching animal welfare in shelters and egg production facilities

PhD student Sally Haynes examines the relationship between dogs and their handlers in animal shelters, and the implications for canine welfare. Fellow doctoral student Joanna Engel is looking into how cage size and nest box availability affect the behaviour and stress response of laying hens. With host Eric van Bemmel.

"If these dogs are fearful, they might display that fear towards the person assessing them as aggression, defensive aggression or they might even withdraw to the back of their pen.  Neither of those two behavioural traits are what we desire in a dog that's going to be adopted." -- Sally Haynes




           



Sally Haynes
Sally Haynes

Sally Haynes is a PhD candidate at the Melbourne School of Land and Envrionment. She is studying the relationship between the attitudes of animal handlers at animal shelters and the behaviors of their canine charges.

Joanna Engel
Joanna Engel

Joanna Engel is a PhD candidate at the Melbourne School of Land and Environment. She is studying the relationship between the size of cages, the availabiility of nest boxes and the behaviors of caged egg-laying hens.

Credits

Host: Eric van Bemmel
Producers: Kelvin Param, Eric van Bemmel
Series Creators: Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param
Audio Engineer: Gavin Nebauer
Voiceover: Nerissa Hannink

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Of dogs and hens: Researching animal welfare in shelters and egg production facilities

VOICEOVER
Welcome to Up Close, the research, opinion and analysis podcast from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
I'm Eric van Bemmel.  Thanks for joining us.  In this episode of Up Close we speak to two young researchers involved in different projects to do with animal welfare.  Later in the program we'll be talking to Joanna Engel about her current experiments involving caged hens, the confined spaces they're allowed and possible implications for egg producers.  
But first with me in the studio is Sally Haynes, a doctoral student in the Melbourne School of Land and Environment here at the University of Melbourne Australia.  Sally has already published research findings on the behaviour of cats and animal shelters, but it's dogs that are her research interest at the moment.  How do the attitudes and behaviours of humans influence the behaviour of animals in their charge and more specifically in animal shelters and quarantine centres, how does the human canine relationship influence the welfare of the dogs involuntarily housed in these centres.  Sally Haynes, thanks for coming along to Up Close today.

SALLY HAYNES
Thank you.  It's a pleasure to be here.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now before we hear about your specific research, can you tell us what's understood about the relationship between human attitudes to animals and animal welfare?

SALLY HAYNES
With humans it begins with the behaviours that they demonstrate towards animals when they're working with them, but these behaviours that they demonstrate are shaped by their attitudes.  It can be influenced by what they know, so their own knowledge about what that behaviour will cause.  It will also be influenced by what other people think they should do, so what their friends and family think they should do.  It also can be influenced about whether they feel they have control, so all these three aspects contribute towards whether they actually performed the behaviour.  Then the affect of the behaviour on the animal may or may not produce a fear response and that can lead to certain outcomes and welfare issues for the animal.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
When you say fear response, you mean fear in the animal of human consequences?

SALLY HAYNES
Exactly.  The animal will respond to human behaviour and its perception of these tactile and visual and olfactory and auditory stimuli, what causes the animal to have confidence and a lack of fear in the human or to be fearful towards a human.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now, when we think about the handling of livestock for example, this is an area where humans and animals have for a long time and intensively so interacted.  What about the attitudes there that humans have in a livestock situation?

SALLY HAYNES
Sure.  Well a lot of the research that's been done on this has been done in intensive livestock industries such as dairy cows, laying hens and also pigs.  What they've discovered there, that there is a very strong evidentiary link between these human attitudes and the behaviours that the stock people routinely perform every day when they're handling their animals.  So when they're feeding them, when they're moving them, when they're moving them onto trucks, the way in which the humans move them.  They might use increasing amounts of pressure if the animals don't move.  That fear response of the animals, the livestock, can actually affect the production values and the behaviour of the livestock themselves.  So you can see dairy cows having lower milk fat and if you change the behaviour of the livestock producer and the way that they interact with their animal, you can actually see improvements in productivity.  But the way we need to change behaviours is to go back to the root cause, which is the attitudes that the people hold towards the behaviours, towards working with the animals.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Are the human handlers then the kind of people who have animal welfare in mind?

SALLY HAYNES
Well, what the research has developed is several programs that go back and have a cognitive behavioural intervention with the livestock handlers with the stock people.  It actually educates them about why they need to behave in a certain way and they've actually demonstrated that you can change people's attitudes and therefore change their behaviours and that changes the way that they interact with the animals in future.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now, with your current research you're looking at the human canine relationship in the context of animal shelters.  Why is this important?

SALLY HAYNES
It's important because in 2009 in Victoria where we are, so one single state in Australia, there were 19,000 dogs that were admitted to RSPCA Victoria shelters alone and there are other shelters in the state.  These dogs come into the shelter.  They can be stray, they can be surrendered, they might be seized by welfare inspectors and they need to be housed initially for an eight day quarantine period.  During this time they can't leave their pen and that's due to the risk of disease and that eight days gives their owner if they're stray a chance to reclaim them.  If they're surrendered they are assessed for the behavioural and health tendencies and then put up for adoption.
Now if these dogs are fearful at the end of the eight days they might display that fear towards the person assessing them as aggression, defensive aggression or they might even withdraw to the pack of their pen.  Neither of those two behavioural traits are what we desire in a dog that's going to be adopted, because essentially the human canine bond is incredibly unique and it's such a social bond we don't want dogs that are aggressive or very shy and fearful going out into the community, so those dogs will ultimately be euthanased.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Put down?

SALLY HAYNES
Yes.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Can we make sort of realistic comparisons between this human canine research interest of yours and these earlier studies on human handlers of livestock?

SALLY HAYNES
There are some theoretical bases that we can certainly compare between the two, because that emotional response of fear and the physiological response of fair, so the heart racing and the stress hormones such as cortisol going up.  They're common across all species including humans, but we need to be careful and that's probably what part of my research is about, is we've got incredible genetic range in the dogs that are coming through shelters, their background, their experience, their age, their health so we have a huge variety that we're dealing with.  There's also a different relationship that happens between dog handlers and the dogs in their care, because to be honest the vast majority of people I've met who work in shelters just love dogs.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
But we have to make a distinction here I think between say a dog owner who has a strong and personal relationship with their dog and the relatively impersonal relationships say of a dog handler in a shelter.

SALLY HAYNES
Absolutely.  However, you find because they are such dog lovers, there are certain dogs that will tug their heartstrings, even if they've been working in shelters for 15 years.  There are still small white fluffies that might really get a particular shelter handler extremely passionate or a shy dog that they've tried to rehabilitate in its time there.  So why they do try and switch off a little it can't possibly.  It's a very different situation from handling livestock I think.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now, if you can tell us about your actual research project, what are you looking at exactly and how are you doing it?

SALLY HAYNES
Okay.  So I've recruited a number of shelters in State of Victoria.  Most of them are within about 45 minutes to an hour from Melbourne and there's a couple that are more regional shelters, a little bit further away, perhaps up to two hours.  Initially we looked at some preliminary observations of the dogs and their behaviour towards the handler, so we could just find out what was going on and construct an ethogram, which is basically a list of behaviours that the dogs are performing in response to the human handlers when they're cleaning the pens.  This occurs every morning in the shelters.  They need to hose the pens and scrape the pens and pick up the faeces.  It all sounds rather banal but this is one of the few times that the dogs have contact with their human carers.
Then we looked at in these preliminary observations some focus groups.  Some of the shelter handlers kindly volunteered their time and sat down with me.  We talked about what was important to them in their job, the things that they found difficult and the sorts of opinions and attitudes that they had towards working with dogs in shelters.  It gives you a real insight.  From those focus groups we constructed a questionnaire and that was based on attitude theory and the responses of shelter handlers to the focus group questions.
Then we took the ethograms of the dog behaviour and the human behaviour and we're now using those to observe a large number of dogs passing through the shelters, in response to the handlers undertaking cleaning duties every day.  So those handlers will be observed handling up to 60 dogs each and then they'll be asked to fill out the questionnaire and we'll look at relationships, so correlations that occur between the attitude questionnaire and the behaviours of the human handler.  We'll also look at correlations between the human behaviours and the responses of the dogs to the humans and then also looking at the outcomes of the dogs, so whether the dog was adopted so deemed suitable in terms of temperament and behaviour or whether the dog was put down, so euthanased by a veterinarian.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
What about the breed of the dog?

SALLY HAYNES
Breed is really difficult.  Dogs are one of the most diverse genetic species on this planet.  It's incredible.  The other problem is that we have no way of knowing if a shelter handler or even an owner says that a dog is a German Shepherd cross, we have no idea what it's crossed with.  They might say it's a purebred German Shepherd but we don't know that either, so we have no genetic history really.  So that's the idea behind getting large numbers of dogs.  We're looking at 60 dogs per handler and up to 55 handlers.  That's a lot of dogs and that's how we try and fear a lot of the noise and variation that will come through in the statistics.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
So there's 3000 plus observations?

SALLY HAYNES
Yeah.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
These are videotaped or how are you going about recording the observations?

SALLY HAYNES
Originally we looked at videotaping.  However, you use a lot of detail when you videotape and you lose a lot of depth of field so what I'm doing is actually making direct observations of the dogs.  So I've been establishing relationships with all these shelters and these handlers over the last 12 months.  When they're handling the dogs I am actually following them around, so travel about one-and-a-half metres behind them and I'm actually recording into a digital voice recorder the behaviour of the dogs.  It's all coded so I can do it very quickly and you get very experienced as well.
So once I've taken the behavioural observations, the dogs in response to the handlers in the morning during the cleaning, I return in the afternoon and video the response of some of the dogs to a strange person, being myself.  We do this using a video.  It's called a Human Approach Test.  So we set the video up 1.5 metres from the pen door and I crouch down next to the video camera and just ignore the dog.  I don't take eye contact, just sit there for a minute.  After a minute I walk up, crouch down next to the pen door and place my hand on the pen door.  This way for another minute we can record the dogs' responses to a strange person.  The reason we do this is I'm actually selecting dogs that are on day one of their quarantine or day eight of their quarantine.  By doing this we can gauge if there's a change in behaviour over time.  That gives us just some more information because we have such a variable quarantine set up that we're dealing with.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Are you controlling for the sex or gender of the dogs or the humans?

SALLY HAYNES
We certainly record all that.  Whether it comes out in the statistics who's to know.  With shelter workers in Australia, very few men actually are a part of the workforce so I'm actually really interested to see if there's any responses that differ between dogs to men and to women as well.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
I know that you're in the middle of your data collection period and it's too early to talk about firm conclusions, but are you seeing anything worth remarking on even anecdotally?

SALLY HAYNES
The whole nature of observing animal behaviours that you're taking hundreds of observations every day, so I can't really draw any conclusions.  But the one observation I would make is that the dogs are not taking a lot of notice of me, which is very reassuring in terms of the design of the experiment.  One would expect that they perhaps might be interested in this stranger that's close by, but they're actually a lot more interested in the person that's entering the pen.  So they oriented their head and their body the vast majority of time towards the animal handler, so that's very reassuring.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
What got you interested in this particular topic?

SALLY HAYNES
Well, I've always been passionate about dogs and cats and I think reading a lot of the human interaction research in livestock really peaked my interest.  I do a lot of dog obedience and agility and I have a new pup for retrieving and so I do a lot of training and interacting with my dogs.  I can see what a difference that makes to their general behaviour and confidence.  I volunteered in shelters before.  I've spent a lot of time working in veterinary clinics when I was younger and I can see these dogs and cats that are in these environments and it's very taxing for them.  It's very noisy.  There are other dogs barking.  They perhaps might be used to being in a family household and they've escaped during a storm and suddenly they've ended up in a shelter.  It's a very barren environment and the staff do their absolute best, but they're under a lot of pressure as well so they can't always give a lot of time to each individual dog.  But perhaps if I can pinpoint something about the quality of that time that the handlers can pick up on, that might be really useful to improve the welfare of the dogs.
The other thing is that even if a dog comes into a shelter and on day one you think that this dog probably won't make it through for health reasons or temperament reasons, I'm of the firm belief that those dogs still deserve the best that they can have during those eight days, even if they will be euthanased as a final endpoint.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Sally, we wish you the very best of luck with your research and we thank you for coming along to our class today.

SALLY HAYNES
Thank you very much.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Sally Haynes is a PhD student in the Melbourne School of Land and Environment here at the University of Melbourne.  Animal welfare is our topic on this episode of Up Close, coming to you from the University of Melbourne, Australia.  I'm Eric van Bemmel.
Well, we go now from dogs to chickens and specifically to the welfare of laying hens, who spend their lives in very small cages producing the eggs that many of us consume.  It's no secret that the egg industry here and in other parts of the globe is under some scrutiny for the way eggs are produced.  The terms battery hen and free range are familiar to many people these days.  These are terms that inevitably point to human concern for animal welfare, but a concern balanced against huge human demand for cheap and plentiful food protein sources.
Joanna Engel joins us now in the studio to talk about her research into how floor space in these cages influences the rearing and nesting behaviours of hens.  Joanna is a PhD student in the Melbourne School of Land and Environment and we're pleased her research brings her to Up Close.  Welcome Joanna.

JOANNA ENGEL
Thank you.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now, you're doing research into welfare issues for laying hens that are kept in cages.  Why is the welfare of laying hens in cages important?

JOANNA ENGEL
Well, at this point a majority of eggs around the world come from hens that are kept in cages.  In Australia alone 80 per cent of the eggs that people consume come from hens kept in cages.  But it's becoming much more of a contentious issue.  Consumers are becoming more and more aware of where their food is coming from and they're more concerned about the living environment of these animals.  So it's really important that we study the quality of life that these animals have, so that that information is out there for consumers to be aware of what is being done to improve the quality of life of the animals producing their food.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Can you give us a bit of an historical build up to how hens are kept?  I'm assuming of course that if you go back 100 years or even 50 years perhaps, that there were these massive batteries of countless small cages.

JOANNA ENGEL
No.  In fact, prior to about World War II the laying industry really was not as intensive as it is now.  There were many more producers than there are now and they all had much smaller flock sizes.  After about World War II the industry became much intensive.  The number of producers dramatically decreased and the flock sizes significantly increased.  In Australia specifically, prior to 2001 hens were required to have at least 450 square centimetres of space per hen.  Any cages built after 2001, hens were required to have 550 square centimetres of space per hen.  That's roughly a little smaller than an A4 sheet of paper.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
So for listeners in the United States for example, that would be an 8.5 by 11 inch sheet of paper roughly speaking?

JOANNA ENGEL
Yeah, about.  Most cages as well, they have a slightly slanted wire mesh floor on the bottom so that eggs can roll out and the sides of the cage are generally a solid metal panel, so these hens basically are kept in these cages for most of their life.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
So if I walk into say a modern day barn with mini cages, do I see many storeys of cages or I'm seeing one layer?

JOANNA ENGEL
It really depends on the housing facilities that a certain producer has.  I've been into facilities that have up to six tiers of cages high and could be up to 100 metres long, so these are rather large buildings.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now there are certain behaviours that hens that are outside of cages, I mean in a natural environment if they're out there roaming in the barnyard so to speak, what are the behaviours that we're likely to see in a laying hen?

JOANNA ENGEL
Well, it's very difficult to establish what is actually normal behaviours for laying hens.  The problem is, we can compare them to their wild counterparts but we've been domesticating these animals for thousands of years, so what's normal for a wild counterpart isn't necessarily what's normal for the animals that we've domesticated.  However, if you look at the behaviour of hens say in a free range system, they'll show behaviours such as dust bathing.  They kind of cover themselves with dirt and it's thought that this is to move around the lipids on their feathers and increase feather quality, so they'll show behaviours like that.  They do a lot of stretching behaviours.  They'll stretch their legs, they'll stretch their wings.  They do a lot of foraging and so they just are able to get more exercise in these types of systems than in a caged system.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
So what happens in a cage with these behaviours?

JOANNA ENGEL
In a cage the birds will be more restricted to the behaviours that they can perform due to the amount of space they have.  So in a cage if the birds are only given 550 square centimetres each they may not have enough space to fully stretch out their wings or fully stretch out their legs.  In a conventional cage they won't be able to dust bathe or they won't have the substrate to.  However, in a cage you might actually see what we call vacuum behaviours, so they'll show these behaviours even in the absence of a substrate.  So you might see a hen going through all of the behaviours of dust bathing, but she doesn't actually have any dust to coat herself with.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
I've noticed in your research description that the term nest boxes comes up a lot.  What is a nest box and why is it important?

JOANNA ENGEL
So a nest box is a small enclosed area within a cage that allows the hen a secluded place to lay her egg.  Hens tend to like finding a place on their own to lay their egg and prior to laying their eggs, hens will exhibit what's called searching behaviour.  So they'll start becoming more active, looking for their preferred site to lay an egg.  Studies have shown that hens without access to a nest box may actually show increased searching behaviour, so they're much more active prior to laying their egg than hens who do have access to a nest box.  However, there has also been research showing that not all hens will actually use a nest box, even if they have access to it, so it is a preference of the hen whether or not she sees that as a suitable place to lay her egg.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
What about the egg producers, the actual farmers here, how do they fit in this whole scenario?

JOANNA ENGEL
The first thing is unlike popular opinion farmers really do care about their animals.  They wouldn't get into this industry if they didn't.  It's not really an industry that you get really rich in, so you do have to love the animals and care for them and genuinely have concern for them to get into this type of industry.  It's also good for them if these animals are treated well.  It does help them economically because animals that have poor welfare produce less, they'll weigh less, they'll get sick more often and you'll probably have higher mortality, so it's in the farmer's best interests to have the best welfare for these animals that they can.  So if their hens have everything they need and are healthy, they're going to lay more eggs, which in turn will get the farmer more money.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
I want to turn now to your actual research project.  What are you looking at and how are you going about it?

JOANNA ENGEL
So my specific PhD project is actually looking at the effects of increasing space allowance both during rearing and also during production and whether or not access to a nest box during production can increase the welfare of laying hens.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Now, when you say production do you mean laying eggs?

JOANNA ENGEL
Yes.  So in this research project we put them into production cages at 16 weeks of age.  That's about when they'll start laying eggs.  The production phase is generally set to start at about 20 weeks of age when they start laying eggs more consistently.  So what we've started looking at is during rearing the minimum space allowance required by codes of practices in Australia requires that at about 15 weeks of age the hens have access to 315 square centimetres each.  So what we've done is we've made the rearing cages 350 square centimetres per bird for all of rearing, so we get them at seven weeks of age and keep them in those pages until they reach 16 weeks of age.  We're also looking at three times that space allowance, so 945 square centimetres per bed during rearing.  After that we put them into production cages, which consists of two space allowances.  One is 550 square centimetres per bird, which is the current minimum space allowance required by the codes of practices.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
This is this A4 size roughly?

JOANNA ENGEL
Yes.  It's slightly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper and the larger space allowance is three times that, which would be about 1650 square centimetres per laying hen, which is quite a bit of space that should be sufficient space for them to stretch.  The other factor in the production cages is whether or not they have access to a nest box, so every cage actually has a nest box in it, but in the cages where they don't have access we've blocked it, so they can't actually go in and use it.  We keep them in these cages from 16 to 34 weeks of age, so the first 10 weeks that they're in the production cages is kind of a grace period where they're getting into peak production, which means they're laying the most consistent number of eggs that they're going to throughout production.  Generally it's usually between 80 and 90 per cent production, which means they're laying an egg every single day 80 to 90 per cent of the time.
During that time every few weeks we'll weigh them just to make sure that they're not losing weight, which could be an indication of illness.  We also do feather condition scoring, because hens that are showing too much aggression or have poor welfare, could have feather loss, so we want to look and make sure that we're not seeing any unexpected feather loss in the animals.  We also videotape and collect eggs at certain periods, so we can actually videotape them from above, in which we've actually marked the hens with carbon ink so each bird within a cage has a unique set of carbon markings, so we can identify them on the videotape from above.  We've also given them a unique combination of leg bands on the bottom, so we can actually identify each individual laying hen in each cage, whichever view we're looking at.  We can then do behavioural time budgets.  We can actually see what behaviours they're performing throughout the day, how long they're spending on these behaviours throughout the day.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
So you're observing these hens in these four different conditions that you've described?

JOANNA ENGEL
Yes.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Just to summarise the conditions, being the normal sized.

JOANNA ENGEL
Industry standard for a cage size with or without access to a nest box.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Versus the one that's three times larger?

JOANNA ENGEL
Exactly.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
With or without a nest box as well.

JOANNA ENGEL
Yes.  So starting at 26 weeks of age we do what we call a period of biological functioning, so what we're looking at is how well these animals are performing biologically.  So this includes collecting egg samples and faecal samples as well as blood samples from these hens.  What we're measuring from these samples is a hormone called corticosterone.  This is a hormone that increases when an animal is stressed.  So in humans when we get stressed, we secrete a hormone called cortisol and corticosterone is just the avian version of this hormone.  Then we also give them a challenge with Adrenocorticotropin-releasing hormone, which is actually the precursor to corticosterone.  So we're injecting them with this ACTH to test their corticosterone response in their systems.  So animals that are showing decreased welfare may actually have a much more pronounced peak of corticosterone concentration after a challenge than animals who aren't stressed.
Finally we also look at immune function in the animals we're doing like blood cell counts in their blood.  When animals experience chronic or long term stress they actually will show decreased immune function, so we all know that when we get more and more stressed we actually are more likely to get sick.  Well, it's the same thing with the laying hens so we're looking to see if they've got decreased immune function.  That means they're probably experiencing long term stress and that means that something isn't right.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Are there other stressors in the environment, I mean noise for example, air quality, things like that?

JOANNA ENGEL
Yes.  Just about anything can cause some kind of a stress response.  Environment is a big one.  A drop in temperature can cause a stress response.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
Are you blocking that out, those other stressors?

JOANNA ENGEL
Well, generally hens kept in these caged facilities, they're completely environmentally controlled.  So in our facilities the temperatures range from about 20 to 25 all the time.  In most commercial facilities it would be the same.  We do try to decrease the amount of background noise that's coming from outside, just kind of out in the country a bit so it's a bit quiet out there anyway.  Other than that, they're kept at consistent lighting throughout the day and the only time that they're exposed to outside light is when the doors are opening and closing when we're going in and out.
So from 30 to 34 weeks of age we actually do what we call preference testing, so we have this apparatus that we've specially built for these hens.  It's what we call a Y Maze, and it's shaped exactly like it sounds, like a Y, so the hens are placed at the base of the Y and then we put resources at each of the arms.  What we do is we let them choose between one resource or the other to let us know which resource, at least at that point in time they're finding more important.

ERIC VAN BEMMEL
They vote with their feet basically yeah?

JOANNA ENGEL
Yes.  They'll walk over to which resource they want.  So what we're testing them is for one group will be tested for space preference, so their two choices will be feed or an area equal to the large space allowance so 1650 square centimetres.  We actually did a preliminary experiment to look at especially for these hens their preference for feed.  So we tested them for a resource called peat moss, which is something they really, really like.  It's something they dust bathe in and they just go crazy when they're around it.  We actually found they were just always choosing feed, because these hens are going into peak production so their bodies have a high demand for nutrients, so they're just always hungry.  So feed is usually the gold standard and we've determined from this preliminary experiment that they're pretty highly motivated to get the feed.  So if they're choosing the space they're pretty motivated to have space if they're not choosing feed.  So the other group is being tested for nest box preference and so their two resources are a nest box and feed.  We're actually testing them about 40 minutes prior to the time they should be laying an egg, so we video record them for weeks leading into this time and know exactly what time they've laid their egg every single day, because at that point they're very highly motivated to seek out a place to find a nest.  So if they choose feed, then they don't seem to be very motivated to choose a nest box, so it might not be that important to them.  If they choose the next box, then that's probably pretty i


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