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Laying hen welfare, space use and housing design

   Bristol Veterinary School

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  Dr Sarah Lambton  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The project:

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.

How to apply:

Apply online for this project at PhD Veterinary Sciences. In the funding section of the application form, select ‘Studentship’ as the main source of funding and enter Laying hen welfare, space use and housing design’. 

Candidate requirements:

The ideal candidate will be a life sciences graduate with an interest in the health, welfare and sustainability of production livestock. The candidate will be keen to spend time on-farm, and to learn behavioural data collection and digital analysis techniques.  


·      Standard University of Bristol eligibility rules apply. Please visit http://www.bristol.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/2021/health-sciences/phd-veterinary-sciences/ for more information.

·      A degree in life sciences or veterinary sciences.

·      Enthusiasm for research.

·      Enthusiasm for animal welfare science and digital analysis techniques.


·      Experience of research

·      Experience in the field of animal behaviour and welfare research

·      Experience of digital analysis

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year full time studentship, fully-funded by Stonegate Farmers Ltd. The studentship is open to applicants eligible for “Home” fees. International students are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between UK and International tuition fees.
The start date for the studentship is negotiable, depending on the successful candidate’s availability and the funding will cover tuition fees and a stipend of £15,895 in year 1, £16,213 in year 2, £16,537 in year 3 and £8,420 in year 4 (half year).
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