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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Proceedings of the Seventh International Symposium, 18-20 May 2005 (Beijing, China) Publication Date 18 May 2005  701P0205.(doi:10.13031/2013.18423)
Authors:   M. J. Jendral, J. J. R. Feddes, J. S. Church
Keywords:   Layer hen, welfare, battery cages, behaviour, production

A study was conducted to assess the welfare of layer hens housed in conventional battery cages, and conventional cages modified to incorporate a nestbox and perch. Each conventional (CON) (30 cm x 45 cm) (n=84) and modified (MOD) (60 cm x 45 cm) (n=84) cage provided 450 cm2 of floor space for 3 White Leghorn hens. MOD cages were furnished with a perch (30 cm x 5 cm) and an artificial turf-lined nestbox (24 cm x 45 cm), providing an additional 360 cm2 of nest area per bird. Continuous video footage was recorded at 35 and 60 weeks, and behaviour was observed for a 1-h period during the pre-lay period (0630-0730h). Pre-lay and nesting activities, roosting, comfort, displacement, stereotypes and aggressive behaviours were recorded for focal animals, and frequencies and durations of the behaviours determined. Production was assessed by evaluating feed consumption at 26, 27, 28 and 64 weeks, body weights at 65 weeks, daily egg production, and egg quality and location of lay every 4 weeks. Consistently high use of the nestbox and perch in MOD cages reiterates the importance of these amenities in enhancing hen welfare. Although indices of egg production, feed conversion, body weight and mortality did not differ significantly between cage treatments, behavioural observations suggest that the welfare of birds in MOD cages was improved through enrichment. CON birds exhibited frustration as evident through pre-lay pacing and escape behaviour, reduced comfort activities and increased aggression, feather pecking and displacement behaviours.

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