Call for More Research on Light Needs of Hens

NETHERLANDS - Greater clarity is needed in the regulations on daylight for organic (breeding) laying hens, according to a new report.
calendar icon 19 October 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

More clarity is needed in the regulations on daylight for organic (breeding) laying hens. The regulations on regular (breeding) laying hens could be used as a basis. The research carried out by Wageningen UR Livestock Research was commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, represented by the Poultry and Egg Product Group at Bioconnect.

The research and a review of current literature into managing daylight for (breeding) laying-hens showed that hens can see more than humans. For example, they can see ultraviolet light, which enables them to see certain objects (such as feed, surroundings etc) differently from people. Hens also see light more intensely than human but light intensity meters are calibrated for human sight and underestimate the light intensity for hens in light measurements taken in coops. Furthermore, hens are able to see more images per second than humans and can see low-frequency lights flickering. However, the researchers found no evidence in the literature of flickering lights causing problems such as increased pecking (of feathers).

Too little known about daylight

Ample daylight is compulsory in coops for organic laying hens. Sufficient daylight is generally seen as an important aspect in the welfare of laying-hens. Organic poultry farmers wonder whether this is actually true, as daylight has always been cited as a possible cause of excessive pecking. Many of them are unsure about the best way of realising daylight and dealing with hens in coops with a lot of daylight. The effect of daylight on behaviour, animal health and technical results is also often a grey area.

Daylight management

The research report gives an overview of the effects of daylight on (breeding) laying-hens. It also examines various management aspects of lighting and lighting schedules. Finally, it gives an overview of daylight lamps and translucent materials that can be used to allow more daylight in the coops. The findings provide organic poultry farmers with basic information about managing daylight facilities for their (breeding) laying hens. The report can also serve as a guideline for clarifying the regulations on organic poultry farming.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report 387 Daylight management for (breeding) hens by B.F.J. Reuvekamp and Th.C.G.M. van Niekerk (in Dutch; English summary) by clicking here.
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