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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Research Project #444006

Research Project: Thermal Perches as Warming Devices for Reducing Cold Stress in Caged Laying Hens

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Project Number: 5020-32000-014-075-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement

Start Date: Jul 1, 2023
End Date: Jun 30, 2026

The aim of the proposed work is to develop a novel method, thermal warm perches, for preventing cold stress and related damage in laying hens.

Hens, 17 wk of age, will be randomly assigned to three treatments: 1) cages with water warmed galvanized steel circular perches (400 mL/min flow rate warmed to 30 oC), 2) cages with ambient air-equilibrated galvanized steel circular perches, and 3) conventional cages without perches. The trial lasting 15 months will be initiated in January 2023 using poultry housing with standard ventilation equipment. To simulate a production environment, water warming will only be used during winter cold weather (ambient temperature of 10 oC or lower) when hens peak in egg production (30 – 40 weeks of age) and aged (70-80 weeks of age). If the winter seasons turn out to be mild, then measures will be used to induce cold stress (10 oC ambient) without causing mortality by use of mobile coolers. All hens will be evaluated for physical condition (skeletal and foot health and feather quality); biological phenomena (body weight, egg production, egg weight, shell quality, feed efficiency, and necropsy on all mortality); and well–being indicators (body temperature as well as behavioral and endocrine responses). Economic and environmental impacts will be assessed.