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Behaviour, health and integument of four hybrids of laying hens in modified and conventional cages

British Poultry Science 37(3): 521-540

Behaviour, health and integument of four hybrids of laying hens in modified and conventional cages

1. In 2 trials the health and behaviour of a total of 3552 caged laying hens of 4 hybrids, Dekalb XL, Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL) and Shaver 288 in trial 1 and ISA Brown and LSL in trial 2, were studied. The cage designs were Get-away cages (GA) with 15 hens per cage, a special version of the 'Edinburgh modified cage' called 'Modified and enriched cage' (ME) with 4 ISA or 5 Leghorn hens per cage, conventional metal cages with 4 liens per cage without (CO) and with a perch (PC) and conventional plastic cages (PL) with three hens per cage. GA and ME included nests, perches and sandbaths. 2. In the first trial two nest models were used, artificial turf and welded wire floor. In the second trial both nest models were used in GA, while all nests in ME were equipped with artificial turf'. In the second trial there were 4 sandbath treatments in ME; no sandbath, sandbath (25 times 50 cm) first opened at 16 weeks of age, sandbath first opened at 26 weeks and double size sandbath (150 times 50 cm,) first opened at 16 weeks. Hens in GA were allowed access to the sandbaths from 26 weeks. 3. At 35 and 55 weeks the best plumage condition (feather cover) was found in PL and GA but plumage condition in ME was not significantly inferior than in GA. Hens in GA had the dirtiest plumage and most humble foot but no toe pad hyperkeratosis. Some toe pad hyperkeratosis occurred in the other systems. Most keel bone lesions were found in systems with perches. The highest mortality was registered in GA. Hens in systems with perches, sandbaths and nests had increased strength of humerus at slaughter. 4. More eggs were laid in rests with artificial turf than in welded wire floor nests. LSL hens laid larger proportions of eggs in the nests (94% and 92% in the two trials) than the other hybrids. Less than 1% of the eggs in ME and 2% in GA were laid in the sandbaths. 5. The use of perches in ME and PC was approximately 30% in the day time. At night the use was 93% in ME and 89% in PC in trial 1 and 96% in ME and 81% in PC in trial 2. 6. Hens in ME with the double sized sandbath both visited the sandbath and performed dust bathing behaviour most, followed by hens in GA, hens in ME with access to the bath from 16 weeks and last, hens in ME with access to the bath from 26 weeks. 7. It is concluded that enrichments of laying cages are used by the hens to a large extent if properly constructed and managed, implying an increased behavioural repertoire of the hens compared with conventional cages. With perches at only one level and with smaller groups of birds, ME provided better hygiene and inspection properties than GA.

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Accession: 002763661

PMID: 8842459

DOI: 10.1080/00071669608417882

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