French Study Investigates Cage Hygiene, Laying Location and Egg Quality

New research from France indicates that eggs laid in the nest boxes of furnished cages were cleaner – both visually and microbiologically – when the nests were lined with a plastic mesh than with artificial turf. Eggs laid in the pecking/scratching area were cleaner when it was covered with the artificial turf than with a rubber mat. The provision of litter in the pecking/scratching area did not affect cage hygiene.
calendar icon 3 June 2012
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The effects of linings and litter provision in furnished (enriched or colony) cages for laying hens were investigated by Maryse Guinebretière and colleagues at the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (Anses) in Ploufragan.

In a paper published in Poultry Science, they explain that their study investigated the influence of litter provision and linings used for nests and pecking and scratching areas on cage hygiene, laying location and egg quality.

Research was carried out in furnished cages, each housing 60 beak–trimmed ISA Brown hens. Four different treatments were compared in a factorial arrangement, including two different nest linings (artificial turf versus plastic mesh), either used alone or combined with the use of litter (wheat bran) spread over the rubber mat in the pecking and scratching area (PSA). An additional treatment, using artificial turf mat in the PSA and nests – as commonly used in commercial flocks – was used to compare the effect of PSA lining in the other treatments.

The researchers observed laying location, the number of dirty and broken eggs, the microbiological contamination of eggshells according to laying location, and general cage hygiene.

The use of nests for laying decreased when they were lined with plastic mesh. Eggs laid outside the nest were of lower quality than those laid inside it, and this was particularly true for eggs laid in the PSA.

Although hygiene was low on artificial turf mats, eggs laid on PSA covered with a rubber mat were dirtier and had a higher count of mesophilic bacteria on the eggshell than those laid on PSA covered with an artificial turf mat. Rubber mats in the PSA were rapidly destroyed and proved to be unsuitable.

The provision of litter had no effect on cage hygiene but substantially increased wear on mats.

This study shows nest lining and litter provision methods to be key factors that need to be taken into account to encourage the use of nest boxes for laying, and hence, to ensure good egg quality, concluded Guinebretière and her colleagues. They add that further research into new linings for PSA is needed for the future improvement of egg-laying conditions.


Guinebretière M., A. Huneau–Salaün, D. Huonnic and V. Michel. 2012. Cage hygiene, laying location, and egg quality: The effects of linings and litter provision in furnished cages for laying hens. Poult. Sci. 91(4):808-816. doi: 10.3382/ps.2011-01881

Further Reading

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June 2012
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