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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SAFEGUARDING WELL-BEING OF FOOD PRODUCING ANIMALS Title: The effect of perches installed in conventional cages on White Leghorn pullets

Authors
item Enneking, Stacey -
item Cheng, Heng Wei
item Garner, Joseph -
item Wakenell, Patricia -
item Rubin, D -
item Jefferson-Moore, K -
item Hester, Patricia -

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 30, 2011
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: Enrichments for laying cages are receiving increasing attention by egg producers as a means of meeting the behavioral needs of laying hens. Pullet cage enrichments have received less attention and study. Adapting pullets to perches prior to placement in enriched laying cages may offer health and welfare advantages over pullets raised in conventional cages without perches. Thus, the objective of this study was to access the response of Hy-Line W36 White Leghorn pullets to the presence of perches placed in conventional cages. Prior to hatch, two round steel perches were installed in each of 14 conventional cages in parallel arrangement with respect to the feed trough at a height of 8.9 cm from the cage floor resulting in 3.2, 5.1, 7.6, and 10.2 cm of perch space/pullet at hatch, 3, 6, and 12 wk of age, respectively. An additional 14 cages without perches served as controls. Floor space allowances for pullets of all cages were 98, 155, 233 and 310 sq cm/chicken and the numbers of pullets/cage were 38, 24, 16, and 12 at hatch, 3, 6, and 12 wk of age, respectively. A sample of pullets from each cage was evaluated for foot health, BW, right adrenal weight, and packed cell volume (PCV) at 3 (PCV at 4.4 wk), 6, and 12 wk of age. Data were analyzed using an ANOVA. Behavioral observations indicated that pullets began using perches as early as 2 wk of age. Pullets with perches showed an increase in BW at 12 wk of age as compared to 12 wk old pullets without perches, with no effect on BW at 3 and 6 wk of age (treatment by age interaction, P < 0.03). The gross right adrenal weight was not affected by the perch treatment, but the relative right adrenal weighed less (P = 0.06) for pullets given access to perches as compared to controls, an indicator that pullets with perches were less stressed. Pullets showed little to no hyperkeratosis of the foot-pads and toes to 12 wk of age. The incidence of hyperkeratosis and PCV were similar between pullets reared in cages with perches as compared to those chickens in conventional cages without perches. In conclusion, these results, collected from chickens up to 12 weeks of age, indicate that the presence of perches in a conventional cage did not detrimentally affect pullet performance and well-being.

Last Modified: 11/22/2014
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