Hen Health

Plumage condition, body weight, mortality and zootechnical performances:  The effects of lining and litter provision in furnished cages for laying hens

M. Guinebretiere, et al. 
Poultry Science (2013) Vol. 92, Iss. 1: 51-59

Key Learnings:

  1. The use of plastic mesh in nests was seen to increase mortality [50% greater] in comparison to artificial turf mats;
  2. It is possible that rubber mats could cause more feather loss and abrasion on the ventral area than artificial turf mats
Read the Abstract

Plumage condition, body weight, mortality and zootechnical performances: The effects of lining and litter provision in furnished cages for laying hens
M. Guinebretiere, et al., Poultry Science (2013) Vol. 92, Iss. 1: 51-59

ABSTRACT 

This experiment was designed to determine the effect of litter provision and lining in nests and pecking and scratching areas on health and zootechnical performances. Research was carried out in furnished cages, each housing 60 beak-trimmed ISA Brown hens. Four different treatments were compared in a factorial arrangement, including 2 different nest linings (artificial turf versus plastic mesh), either used alone or combined with the use of litter (wheat bran) spread over the rubber mat in the pecking and scratching area (PSA). An additional treatment using artificial turf mat in the PSA and nests (as commonly used in commercial flocks) was used to compare the effect of PSA lining in the other treatments. Zootechnical performances (laying rate, egg weight, and feed intake) were unaffected by PSA lining or by nest lining. The use of artificial turf mats in the PSA resulted in less feather loss than rubber mats, especially on breast and cloaca/vent areas. No consequences were observed on BW or mortality. However, the use of plastic mesh in nests was seen to increase mortality in comparison with artificial turf mats, without affecting plumage condition and BW. Although wheat bran provision did not influence feed intake and laying rate, litter provision did result in slightly higher mean egg weight. Moreover, BW tended to be lower when litter was distributed in cages, and neck and breast plumage condition improved. The distribution of litter was not seen to have any effect on mortality. The provision of litter and the lining of the PSA and nests to improve the welfare of caged laying hens have an effect on mortality, plumage quality, and some zootechnical performances. These results show the importance of choosing the most suitable linings and litter to obtain the best possible compromise between the ethological needs of laying hens, zootechnical performance, and animal health.

Click here to download the abstract and full research document
(the publisher may have fees for the full reports)

Effect of Nest Design, Passages, and Hybrid on Use of Nest and Production Performance of Layers in Furnished Cages
H. Wall 

Poultry Science (2002) Vol. 81, Iss. 3: 333-339

Key Learnings:

  1. The proportion of nest bottom lining (AstroTurf) cannot be reduced without affecting birds’ use of nests;
  2. Inferior hygiene reported in previous studies on nests with nest pads and no closing mechanism may be due to inferior design (no perch and ease of roosting on nest edges)
Read the Abstract

Effect of Nest Design, Passages, and Hybrid on Use of Nest and Production Performance of Layers in Furnished Cages
H. Wall, Poultry Science (2002) Vol. 81, Iss. 3: 333-339

Abstract 

Production performance, including egg quality, and proportion of eggs laid in nests were studied in furnished experimental cages incorporating nests, litter baths, and perches. The study comprised a total of 972 hens of two genotypes: Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) and Hy-Line White. The birds were studied from 20 to 80 wk of age, and conventional four-hen cages were included as a reference. In furnished cages for six hens, the effects of 30 or 50% vs. 100% nest bottom lining (Astro turf®) were studied with LSL hens. Nest bottom lining had no significant effect on egg production or proportions of cracked or dirty eggs, but the use of nests was significantly higher in cages incorporating nests with 100% lining, compared with 50 or 30%. The two hybrids were compared when housed in large, group-furnished cages for 14 or 16 hens of two designs; with a rear partition with two pop holes or fully open, i.e., no rear partition. LSL birds produced significantly better and had a significantly lower proportion of cracked eggs. There was no difference between H- and O-cages, either in production or in egg quality. LSL birds laid a significantly lower proportion of eggs in the nests, especially in O-cages, implying a significant hybrid × cage interaction. When housed in conventional cages, the hybrids did not differ in proportion of cracked eggs but differed in production traits. It was concluded that with the present nest design, the proportion of nest bottom lining cannot be reduced without affecting birds’ use of nests, but the proportion did not affect exterior egg quality. The effect of genotype should be considered in the further development of furnished cages.

Click here to download the abstract and full research document
(the publisher may have fees for the full reports)