Does access to open water affect the behaviour of Pekin ducks (Anas platyrhynchos)?


Ducks show a wide range of water-related behaviours but commercial production often involves access to water that allows drinking only. In this study we evaluated effects of four water resource (WR) treatments on water related behaviours of Pekin ducks. Ducks (n=2800) were kept in one of four water provision treatments (7 replicate groups of 100 ducks per treatment) from 20 days of age: a bath that allowed full access to water; a trough in which the head could be dipped but without body access; turkey bell drinkers; chicken bell drinkers. The turkey and chicken bells provided easy access for drinking but less opportunity for interaction with the water. The behaviour of the ducks was video recorded, then analysed using scan sampling at 7.5. min intervals between 10:00 and 22:00 at 21, 32, 42 and 45 days. As might be expected, as birds grew, fewer were observed in the bath and over all treatments the amount of preening behaviour increased as ducks aged. Although ducks with access to a bath spent less time in or near the bath, this does not indicate lack of importance to the birds. Fewer ducks were observed standing or resting idle at the bath, and they performed proportionately more water-related preening behaviours than ducks in the other treatments. Moreover, as access to water increased (i.e. from beak only, through to entire body access) higher proportion of preening ducks performed head-dipping behaviour, and a lower proportion performed feather manipulation. This work shows that provision of a water resource that permits full body access appears to promote efficiency of drinking-related behaviours and preening behaviour. This helps to explain improvements in feather hygiene reported in other studies where the birds had full access to, or greater access to water. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.