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Effects of Cage Stocking Density on Feeding Behaviors of Group-Housed Laying Hens

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

Citation:  Paper number  054005,  2005 ASAE Annual Meeting . (doi: 10.13031/2013.19472) @2005
Authors:   R. N. Cook, H. Xin, D. Nettleton
Keywords:   animal welfare, ingestion, poultry housing

Although quantification of animal welfare continues to be a challenging task for both the animal agriculture industry and the scientific community, characterization of feeding behavior has been shown to be a good indicator of animal welfare. This study quantifies the effects of cage stocking density (348, 387, 426, and 465 cm2 cage floor space per hen; 54, 60, 66, and 72 in2 cage floor space per hen) on the feeding behavior of W-36 White Leghorn laying hens. Feeding behavior was characterized using a specialized instrumentation system and computational algorithm for each cage of six hens during four (24-hen) trials. Statistics show no significant difference among the stocking densities under thermoneutral conditions with regard to daily feed intake (97-101 g/hen, p=0.37), hen-hours spent feeding per cage (17.8-24.0 hen-hours/day, p=0.32), average daily feeding time per hen (3.0-4.0 h/day, p=0.32), number of meals ingested per day per cage (117-181 meals/day, p=0.18), meal size (1.6-2.6 g/meal-hen, p=0.09), average meal duration (174-258 sec/meal, p=0.4), ingestion rate (0.47-0.77 g/min-hen, p=0.06), and number of hens feeding per meal (1.9-2.0 hens/meal, p=0.72). Other characteristics measured and reported include simultaneous feeding behaviors and diurnal group feeding patterns. Quantification of specific responses such as feeding behavior to potential stressors (i.e. cage stocking density) may yield better housing design and management decisions based upon scientific data to improve animal welfare.

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