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Remedies for a High Incidence of Broken Eggs in Furnished Cages: Effectiveness of Increasing Nest Attractiveness and Lowering Perch Height

25 February 2013

A lower perch reduced the number of broken eggs but replacing plastic mesh nest floor lining with artificial turf had no effect on egg breakages. Perching behaviour during the light period was more disturbed in cages with low perches than high perches.

In the journal, Poultry Science, Frank Tuyttens of the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) in Melle, Belgium and co-authors from the University of Ghent report their investigation into two remedial treatments to reduce the high incidence of broken eggs in the furnished cages at their experimental layer farm. These treatments involved lining the nest floor with artificial turf (to increase nest acceptance) and lowering perch height (to reduce the chance of egg breakage of eggs outside the nests).

A 2×2 factorial design was used with low (7cm) or high (24cm) perches, and with nest floors lined with artificial turf or plastic mesh. Eight cages, each housing eight hens initially (aged 40 to 56 weeks), were used per treatment.

Egg location and percentage of broken eggs were recorded. Hen position (cage floor, nest or perch) was recorded by direct scan-sampling observations. In addition, eight cages (four with high perches and fou with low perches), each containing eight hens (aged 54 to 56 weeks) were video-recorded to determine perch use and behaviour during the light period.

Data were mainly analysed using logistic regression and mixed models with cage as the experimental unit.

Nest floor material did not influence the percentage of eggs broken or laid outside the nest.

The proportion of eggs broken outside the nest (2.6 versus 10.6 per cent, P=0.004), and consequently also of total eggs (2.0 versus 4.6 per cent; P=0.016) broken, was lower for low than high cages.

Perch use increased during the observation period, more so for the high perches during the light period and the low perches during the dark period. Perching duration (P<0.001), the likelihood of ending a perching bout voluntarily (P=0.013) and time spent sitting during perching (P=0.007) were lower in low than high perches.

The researchers concluded that in their study, replacing plastic mesh nest floor lining with artificial turf was an ineffective remedy for the already-high rate of broken eggs. The prevalence of eggs broken outside the nest was lower in cages with low perches than high perches. Perching behaviour during the light period was more disturbed in cages with low perches.

Reference

Tuyttens F.A.M., E. Struelens and B. Ampe. 2013. Remedies for a high incidence of broken eggs in furnished cages: Effectiveness of increasing nest attractiveness and lowering perch height. Poult. Sci. 92(1):19-25. doi: 10.3382/ps.2012-02192

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

February 2013



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