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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Athens, Georgia » U.S. National Poultry Research Center » ESQRU » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #352532

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: Incorporation of welfare assessment on layer performance test: 3 genotypes in 4 different housing systems

item REGMI, PRAFULLA - Purdue University
item ANDERSON, KENNETH - North Carolina State University
item KARCHER, DARRIN - Purdue University
item Jones, Deana

Submitted to: Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2018
Publication Date: 7/23/2018
Citation: Regmi, P., Anderson, K.E., Karcher, D.M., Jones, D.R. 2018. Incorporation of welfare assessment on layer performance test: 3 genotypes in 4 different housing systems. Poultry Science Association Meeting Abstract. 97:149.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Welfare quality of laying hens kept in conventional cages came under great scrutiny in the past decade and ultimately paved way for more extensive housing types such as the enriched colony cages and cage-free aviaries. Genotype can influence behavior and welfare; and information on the suitability of contemporary genetic strains of laying hens to different housing type is valuable to the producers. The aim of this study was to compare welfare parameters of 3 brown egg-type hens (O, P, and Q strains) in conventional (CC) and enriched cages (EN), cage-free (CF) litter and slat system, and a free-range (FR) system. Birds were either reared in place (CF and FR) or reared in cage systems and transferred at 16 wk. Welfare quality assessment was conducted on 10% hens per replicate at 15 wk age and then approximately every 8 weeks starting at 26 wk until the birds were 67 wk age. Welfare scores were collected on a binary scale and data were analyzed using non-parametric tests. Housing systems influenced keel fractures, keel deviations, foot condition and feather scores of hens. Keel fractures were more prevalent in FR hens (77.4%) compared to CC (35.8%), EN (40.9%) and CF (40.5%; P < 0.05). At 67 wk, CF also had lowest keel deviations than other systems (P < 0.05). Moderate food pad damage with hyperkeratosis was only present in the EN system (>80%). The cage systems (CC and EN) had broken feathers and featherless area < 5 cm diameter whereas feather damage was very limited or non-existent in CF and FR (P < 0.05). Main effect of genetic strain was observed for keel fracture status and belly feather scores. Percentage of hens with keel fractures was greatest in strain ‘Q’ at 43 wk age whereas at 67 wk, fractures were more prevalent in ‘Q’ compared to ‘P’ while ‘O’ was intermediate (P < 0.05). At 67 wk, approximately 64% of ‘Q’ hens had moderate damage to belly feathers compared to 53% in ‘O’ and 35% in ‘P’ hens (P < 0.05). In conclusion, welfare parameters are influenced by environment, genetics and age of the hen. Other housing related management variables such as lighting, and underlying behavior differences among the genetic strains could be explored further.