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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » ESQRU » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #327018

Title: Laying hen performance and well-being over two flock cycles on different litter substrates in an aviary housing

item KARCHER, D - Michigan State University
item Jones, Deana

Submitted to: Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2016
Publication Date: 7/11/2016
Citation: Karcher, D.M., Jones, D.R. 2016. Laying hen performance and well-being over two flock cycles on different litter substrates in an aviary housing. Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract. 95:71.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The momentum to move toward aviary housing has continued to increase in the past eight months. The pressure to find consistent bedding sources for meat birds may impact litter substrate for the laying hen industry as the number of cage-free hens increases in the next nine years. Molting laying hens has decreased in the commercial industry in the past decade but the economics of production may drive a resurgence of molting in cage-free laying hens. Therefore, the objective was to evaluate different litter substrates on hen performance and well-being over two production cycles. Bovan White pullets were placed into a commercial aviary system at 17 weeks of age. Four rooms of the aviary were utilized with each aviary divided into four sections. Within each room, the sections had a different forage substrate: concrete, Astroturf, wood shavings, or straw. At 67 weeks of age, two of the four rooms were molted with all rooms terminated at 115 weeks of age. Data collected daily were hen-day (HD) and hen housed (HH) eggs. Body weights (BW) and welfare quality (WQ) parameters were collected monthly. Data were analyzed using the GLIMMIX statement in SAS. HD was not different between molted and non-molted hens (P > 0.05) or between litter substrates (P > 0.05). HH were different by 27 eggs between molt and non-molt (P < 0.01) while hens that had access to concrete about 50 eggs less than the other litter substrates (P < 0.01). No differences in BW were observed during the two production cycles for litter substrates or molt (P > 0.05). The Welfare Quality® guide for poultry was used to assess various hen welfare parameters. Regardless of molt or litter substrate, 78% of laying hens had some issue with the keel bone. The feather cover assessed on 7 different areas were not impacted by litter substrate or molt for the entire period. Overall, the presence of a litter substrate and molting hens has an impact on egg production. Depending on the parameter assessed for WQ, litter substrate and molting has the potential to have an impact on the laying hen welfare.