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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Cheng, Heng Wei
item Pohle, Kimberly

Submitted to: International Society of Applied Ethology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/14/2005
Publication Date: 3/31/2005
Citation: Cheng, H., Pohle, K.M. 2005. Behavioral changes and production performance of laying hens in furnished cages vs. conventional cages. International Society of Applied Ethology. p. 136.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The aims of this experiment were to investigate the effects of different cage systems on hen behavior and production performance. One hundred seventy-two W-36 White Leghorn laying hens aged 19 wk were used in the experiment. The hens were randomly assigned into conventional cages at 6 hens per cage or furnished cages at 10 hens per cage (about 610 cm2 of floor space/hen in each system). The finished cages contained nests, perches, scratch pads, and dust baths (Big Dutchman, Germany). Production data were collected from a period of 25 to 50 wk of age, and behavioral data were collected on every Monday from 30 to 50 wk of age using 10-min scan samples at each hour from 0700 - 2300. Compared to the hens housed in conventional cages, the hens housed in furnished cages had heavier body weights from 30 to 50 wk of age (P < 0.01). Although furnished cage hens spent more time feeding (P < 0.05), no caging effects were found on egg mass and accumulated egg production (P > 0.05). Compared to the hens housed in conventional cages, the hens housed in furnished cage laid a greater proportion of dirty eggs (eggs laid in the litter areas or with blood spots), with a peak at 25 wk of age (1%), then, the proportion consistently dropped to below 0.1% at 50 wk of age. Compared to the hens housed in conventional cages, furnished cage hens spent more time standing and walking at 30 wk of age (P < 0.01). At 50 wk of age, furnished cage hens spent more time preening, while conventional cage hens spent more time performing exploratory pecking (P < 0.01). There were no differences in drinking between the two groups (P > 0.05). These results indicate that furnished cages may provide a certain comfort level for laying hens; however, economic productivity in the furnished cages may be lower than in the conventional cages. It seems that the higher stocking density might impact hen well-being and reduce the benefits of furnished cages. Further studies are needed to investigate whether hen well-being and production can be further improved if hens are maintained in a small group, for example 6 birds per cage.

Last Modified: 06/26/2017
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