Shade Made Little Difference to Use of Paddocks by Free-Range Hens

In his presentation at the 8th European Symposium on Poultry Welfare, P. Glatz from the Pig and Poultry Production Institute at Roseworthy in South Australia reported that providing shade only slightly increased the use of the range area by laying hens, and there were no advantages in terms of egg output or feather score.
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A concern for the free-range layer system reported by Hegelund et al. (2005) is that only nine per cent of birds use the range area. The factors which influence use of the range include weather (temperature, wind and rain), season, age, flock size, time of day and shade (Hegelund et al., 2005).

This current trial examined the role of shade areas in attracting laying hens into the range. A total of 120 laying hens (Hy-Line Brown) were housed at 18 weeks in an eco-shelter (6m × 6m) located in the centre of a paddock with dimensions 66m × 66m. The eco-shelter had six internal pens of equal size (2m × 3m) with a free-range area (726m2) adjoining the shelter.

Hens were provided feeders, drinkers, nest boxes and perches in each pen but no artificial light. Layers were randomly allocated into six groups of 20 birds.

There were two treatments provided in the range, shade versus no shade, with each treatment replicated three times. The control hens were not provided with outdoor shade while the treatment hens were provided with a shaded area (3m × 2m × 1m= l × b × h) fitted with shade cloth located 10 m and 20 m from the shed.

Over the late summer period from 32-44 weeks (March-May 2008), hens were allowed access to the range and measurements were made daily for egg production, weekly for egg weight and every four weeks for feather score.

There was little forage available for birds due to prevailing drought conditions in South Australia.

Video records were made of hens from each of the replicates using the shade or in the range for a one-hour period in the morning and afternoon at 38 weeks when average maximum temperature was 27.5°C. A total of 12 hours of video tape was assessed. Data were analysed using ANOVA in the Systat software.

In the morning, shaded areas were visited by 18 per cent of the hens with a tendency (P=0.07) for more hens to be in the paddock; 43 per cent for paddocks with shade compared to 25 per cent for the paddocks with no shade provided.

In the afternoon, there were no difference between treatments for hens that used the range (30 per cent for shade treatment versus 40 per cent for no shade; P=0.49). Only 10 per cent of hens used the shade in the afternoon.

There was no significant difference (P=0.22) for hens (12 per cent) in the shade closer to the shelter versus the shade (six per cent) provided 20m from the shelter.

There was no significant effect on production and feather score of hens whether they were provided shade or no shade on the range.

The provision of shaded areas in the free range attracted some additional hens into the range but other attractants are needed to encourage more hens into the paddocks, particularly during the summer season.


Glatz P.C. 2009. Attracting laying hens into range areas using shade. Proceedings of 8th Poultry Welfare Symposium, Cervia, Italy, 18-22 May 2009, p8.

Dr Glatz added the following dedication to his paper: This paper is dedicated to the memory of John Barnett, a brilliant scientist who was committed to improving poultry welfare standards through the study of stress physiology and the development of welfare audits. His astute advice on poultry welfare issues and his contributions to research and teaching in Australia will be greatly missed.

Further Reading

- You can see other papers presented at the 8th European Symposium on Poultry Welfare by clicking here.

February 2010
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