Standard Operating Procedure for Nesting Behavior
The observed time is split into time slots (10 minutes long in this case), and the data sheet provides a row for each timeslot in a 24h period, and a column for each major behavioral category. For ease of reference, alternate hours are shaded white or grey. The sheet contains columns for key behavior categories. These categories each contain many individual behaviors, but are designed to allow the investigator to rapidly pick up functional differences between animals. The categories are as follows:
The I column is for recording inactive behaviors
The GA column is for recording general activity
The M column is for recording maintenance behaviors
The Pi column is for recording Pulling in
The C column is for recording carrying
The Fr column is for recording fraying
The PD column is for recording push-dig
The S column is for recording sorting
The D column is for recording digging
The Fl column is for recoding fluffing
The Sh column is for recording shoveling
Proceed with interval recording as follows
- Move the video to the exact time of the timeslot, and simply record the behavior being performed at this time.
- It may be necessary to match a few seconds before and after the time point to be certain which behavior to record.
- Move to the next timeslot.
- As before, data can be summarized in sub-blocks, or for the whole 24h. Simply calculate the total % of time spent in each behavior. Check your work by making sure that the data total to 100%.
- We generally analyze these data using a multivariate approach. Examples can be found in Some like it hot: Mouse temperature preferences in laboratory housing.
Singly housed vs. group housed animals
- The methods above are straightforward for singly housed animals.
- For group housed animals, you may be interested in encoding different individuals separately (e.g. if you have treatment and control animals in the same cage), in which case simply keep separate data sheets for each animal.
- Alternatively, you may be interested in the behavior of the group as a whole. In which case the procedures above are modified differently for 1/0 and interval recording.
- For interval recording, record the number of animals performing each category of behavior at each timeslot. Thus the total for each timeslot will equal the number of animals in the cage.
- Calculations are then performed as detailed above.