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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » ESQRU » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #339628

Research Project: Evaluation of Management of Laying Hens and Housing Systems to Control Salmonella and Other Pathogenic Infections, Egg Contamination, and Product Quality

Location: ESQRU

Title: Early Molting of Layers: Impact on production and well-being

item KARCHER, DARRIN - Purdue University
item Jones, Deana
item ROBISON, CARA - Michigan State University
item REGMI, PRAFULLA - Purdue University
item EBERLE, KRISTA - North Carolina State University

Submitted to: Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2017
Publication Date: 7/1/2017
Citation: Karcher, D.M., Jones, D.R., Robison, C.I., Regmi, P., Eberle, K.N. 2017. Early Molting of Layers: Impact on production and well-being. Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract. 96:81.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: A major disease outbreak can devastate an industry as was observed in the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. The laying hen industry relies on scheduling pullet flocks to replace end-of-cycle laying hens. The unfortunate depopulation of pullet flocks that could not be placed into commercial housing disrupted this scheduling taking at least a year for all operations to be fully operational. This outbreak demonstrated that few to no options exist for dealing with pullets in a quarantined zone or with no available hen housing. Therefore, the objective evaluated the impact of an early production molt as a way to extend pullet-stay in the grower house in an event of disease outbreak. The experimental design reared cage-free Hy-Line W-36 pullets from 0 to 16 wks of age. At 17 wk, pullets were divided into four treatments: 1) Control (C) - moved into aviary laying facility following commercial practices; 2) Floor (F) - stimulated to lay eggs in the pullet pen; 3) Enriched (E) – stimulated to lay eggs in the pullet pen but added perches and nest boxes; 4) Molted (M) - stimulated to lay eggs in pullet pen and at 10% production, molted. Following the molt period, F, E, and M hens were moved to the hen facility aviary rooms. Four hen aviary rooms with four sections per room were utilized to house a replicate of each of the treatments within a room. 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 from 17-24 and 25-31 wk. Initially, HD for C (52%) and E (51%) were different (P<0.008) from F (47%) and M (26%) and F was different from M (P<0.001). However, by 31 wk, C HD (97%) was different from E, F, M (90%, 90%, 89%, respectively; P<0.005). Welfare quality assessments found no keel score differences, but 70% of all birds assessed across treatments had tip fractures by 31 wk of age. Hens with defeathered head area were M (6.8%), E (3.5%), F (3.5%), and C (1.7%). While the M layers never completely ceased egg production, this method may prove advantageous to maintain pullets for a longer period of time in the pullet house during a disease quarantine scenario, resulting in sufficient egg production post-molt.