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Responses of Laying Hens to Full vs. Partial Litter Access in Aviary Housing

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

Citation:  10th International Livestock Environment Symposium (ILES X)  .(doi:10.13031/iles.18-013)
Authors:   Jofran L Oliveira, Hongwei Xin
Keywords:   Air quality, animal welfare, floor eggs, food safety, poultry management

Abstract. Cage-free egg production has been a topic of increasing attention in the USA over the past two years. With different cage-free styles and management schemes, retailers have developed their own cage-free criteria. One highly debated aspect is if hens may be kept inside the system for part of the day, during the first few hours after lights-on. Research is lacking regarding the impact of such practice on hen well-being, production performance, and environmental conditions. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of providing full litter access (i.e. doors always open) vs. partial litter access (i.e., doors automatically opened 5 hr after lights-on), coupled with the absence or presence of experienced hens (1.5% of population) on the following variables: a) incidence of floor eggs, b) birds remaining on litter floor at night, c) bird mortality, d) body weight and uniformity, e) ammonia level in the barn, and f) amount and moisture content of floor litter. A commercial aviary henhouse (51,405 Dekalb White hens) was divided into 32 sections for the four treatments (8 replicates per treatment). Results show that sections with full litter access had considerably higher incidences of floor eggs, more manure deposition on the floor, and higher ammonia levels in winter, as compared to the partial litter access sections. Inclusion of experienced hens in the young flock did not reduce floor eggs. The percentage of hens remaining on the floor at night was low (<0.01%) for all treatments from 24 weeks of age onward.

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