Under undomesticated conditions, poultry lay eggs in simple nests, perch in trees and spend
much of the day scavenging for feed. Chickens spend a large proportion of their time scratching
to expose hidden food. Under the backyard and semi-intensive production systems, poultry are
usually enclosed at night to discourage thieves and predators, and under intensive production,
are totally confined day and night. Some village households keep their few chickens inside the
house or even under their bed at night, to discourage theft.
Given a choice of a place to lay their eggs, hens will choose a soft “litter” base, and they
prefer an adequately sized (a cube of approximately 30 cm), darkened nest with some privacy.
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Prior to laying, hens usually investigate a number of possible sites before entering a nest box.
They then show nesting behavior, which includes a special protective nest-seeking voice, after
which they sit and finally lay. When they have laid an egg, they announce this with another type
of “pride of achievement” call. These calls can also be heard in a battery cage house. If perches
are provided, hens will perch most of the time rather than stand on the wire floors, and after
dark most birds roost on the perches. Perching is a probable survival characteristic to avoid
night predators. The basic requirements for poultry housing are:
x light; and
x protection (from weather and predators).