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Variation of litter quality in cage-free houses during pullet production

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

Citation:  2022 ASABE Annual International Meeting  2200925.(doi:10.13031/aim.202200925)
Authors:   Xiao Yang, Lilong Chai, Ramesh Bahadur Bist, Sachin Subedi, Yangyang Guo
Keywords:   egg production; cage-free management; pullets; dust


Poultry and eggs provide the most valuable protein for human beings and animals. Currently USA is the world‘s largest broiler chicken producer and 2nd largest egg producer. However, poultry & egg production is facing a number of grand challenges associated with environmental quality and animal health. Litter quality is critical to animals‘ health and welfare in floor raised poultry housing system such as broiler, breeder, and cage-free laying hen houses. Laying hens and breeders have up to 80 weeks of production period, but very few studies are focusing on early age, i.e., pullet‘s production. The objective of this study was to monitor litter quality and influential factors for pullets' phase (<17 weeks old) in cage-free laying hen houses. In this study, fresh pine shavings were used as bedding materials (initial depth was 2.5 cm or 1 inch) for Hy-Line W-36 chicks evenly raised in four identical rooms (200 birds each room; denoted as room A, B C, and D, each was 18.6 m2) on the Poultry Research Farm at the University of Georgia (UGA). Litter quality indicators of litter depth, density, mass production, and litter moisture content (LMC) were measured weekly. Litter samples were collected from four representative zones (denoted Z1 – close to feeder zone, Z2 - close to nipple drinkers‘ zone; Z3 – close to walking zone, and Z4 close to perching zone). There were no significant differences in weekly LMC, litter depth, volume or production rate between four rooms, but all litter quality indicators were changing over time from week 1 to week 7 (i.e., LMC were 8.58±0.21% on the week 1, but it reached 10.11±0.63% on the week 7) (p<0.05). For different zones in the same room, litter depth and LMC were observed with significant difference (p<0.05). The maximum LMC and litter depth were observed on week 7 in the Zone 2 (i.e., drinking area where the LMC was 10.12% and the litter depth was 4.42 cm), while the lowest litter moisture and depth (i.e., 8.9% LMC and 1.83 cm litter depth) were found in the Zone 3 (i.e., walking zone).

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