Welfare and Performance in Layers Following Temporary Exclusion from the Litter Area on Introduction to Layer Facility13 April 2015
Temporary exclusion from the litter area on introducing pullets to the laying facility had no adverse impacts on the welfare of the birds and even improved some parameters of well-being, according to new Swedish research.
When introduced to the laying facility, pullets are sometimes temporarily excluded from the litter area in order to help them locate food and water, and to prevent floor-laid eggs, explain Malin Alm of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and others in a paper published in the current issue of Poultry Science.
They go on to explain that this procedure is not permitted in Sweden because it involves denying access to both litter and space, which may have a negative effect on bird welfare.
Their study investigated how the welfare and performance of layers were affected by this temporary exclusion on introduction of hens to the laying facility.
It included 600 floor-reared Dekalb White layers obtained at 16 weeks age and housed in six groups of 100 in a conventional single-tier floor-laying system.
Birds were either given full access to the litter area during the whole study or were excluded from the litter area during the first two weeks after transfer to the laying facility. From 18 to 72 weeks of age, birds in both treatments had full access to the litter area.
Excluding birds from the litter area for two weeks resulted in better feather cover and reduced fearfulness, according to novel object and tonic immobility tests, the researchers found.
Furthermore, birds initially excluded from the litter area produced eggs with a lower proportion of shell irregularities than birds with full access to the litter area throughout.
No difference was found in corticosterone metabolites in droppings rate of lay, mortality or the proportion of floor-laid eggs.
Alm and co-authors concluded that none of the parameters studied indicated that the welfare of laying hens was compromised by temporary exclusion from the litter area on introduction to the laying facility.
In fact, they added, some of the data suggested that bird welfare had improved.
Alm M., H. Wall, L. Holm, A. Wichman, R. Palme and R. Tauson. 2015. Welfare and performance in layers following temporary exclusion from the litter area on introduction to the layer facility. Poultry Science. 94:565-573. doi: 10.3382/ps/pev021
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