Animal behavior is an observable and measurable metric, and advanced developments in lightweight and low-cost sensor technology have provided researchers with the opportunity to track animals across space and time with minimal intervention. For the poultry industry in particular, there has been a shift from traditional caged systems to cage-free systems. Many techniques are available to detect the behavior, activity, and location of large flocks of chickens. In order to effectively extrapolate data to larger, untagged flocks, an implicit assumption associated with these technologies is that these devices do not significantly alter the natural behavior of the individuals tested, but this assumption has rarely been tested.
A study at China Agricultural University evaluated the effects of a wearable IMU backpack on space use (feeders, nest boxes, and perches) and behavior (aggression, comfort, and locomotor behavior) of laying hens in an incubation system. Wearing the backpacks affected space use during the first few days after installation. As hens gradually adapted to the devices, the effects of the backpack on feeder, nest box and perch use disappeared.
Therefore, the effects of IMU backpacks on space use and behavior of laying hens are marginal and non-sustainable, and the research task IMU backpack equipment is suitable for further behavioral studies after short-term domestication.