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Other publication2013

Short term deprivation of the litter area after transfer to the layer facility - effects on welfare and production in pullets

Karlsson, Malin; Wall, Helena; Wichman, Anette; Holm, Lena; Tauson, Ragnar


In order to enable hens to find feed and water and to reduce the number of floor-laid eggs in floor systems, producers sometimes exclude pullets from the litter area for some time when they are moved into the production system. This could have negative consequences since litter is an important resource for layers and the procedure is not allowed in Sweden. The aim of the present study was to investigate how bird welfare and production are affected by deprivation of access to litter and space at introduction of pullets to the laying facility. The study comprised 600 floor reared Bovans Robust layers obtained at 16 weeks of age (wks) and housed in 6 groups of 100 in a single-tier floor laying system. Three groups had full access to the litter area during the whole study (OPEN) and three groups were excluded from the litter during the first two weeks (CLOSED) and then received full access throughout the rest of the study. The experiment will run a full production cycle (75 wks) and figures presented below show the results obtained until 51 wks as it is still in progress. Feather cover (6-24 points), pecking wounds, cleanliness, foot condition and keel bone deviations (all 1-4 points) were assessed by integument scoring at 40 wks. Fearfulness was assessed by testing novel object (NO) and tonic immobility (TI). Based on group means, the data were analyzed by analysis of variance (ANOVA) using the MIXED procedure of the statistical system (SAS 9.2). The feather cover score was higher in treatment CLOSED (17.9 points) compared to OPEN (12.3 points) (P=0.019). No difference was found between treatments in any of the other integument score parameters. Fearfulness was higher in groups in the OPEN treatment as compared to CLOSED, indicated by less approaches in the NO test (21.5 vs 48.0) (P<0.001) and longer duration of TI (11.3 min vs 6.4 min) (P=0.018). Rate of lay, number of mislaid eggs, proportion of cracked or dirty eggs and mortality were recorded regularly but no significant differences between treatments were shown. Thus, excluding hens from the litter area during the first two weeks in this type of production system did not decrease the number of floor laid eggs, but had a positive impact on feather cover and resulted in less fearful birds. Additional welfare parameters will be analyzed later on which may explain these results further.


Laying hens; welfare; litter; feather cover; fearfulness

Published in

World's Poultry Science Journal
2013, pages: 38-38 Title: World's Poultry Science Journal : 9th European Symposium on Poultry Welfare : Book of abstracts

Publisher: The World's Poultry Science Association