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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

Welfare and performance in layers following temporary exclusion from the litter area on introduction to the layer facility

Alm, Malin; Wall, Helena; Holm, Lena; Wichman, Anette; Palme, Rupert; Tauson, Ragnar

Abstract

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. 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. The present study investigated how the welfare and performance of layers were affected by this temporary exclusion on introduction of hens to the laying facility. The study included 600 floor-reared Dekalb White layers obtained at 16wk age and housed in 6 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 2 wk after transfer to the laying facility. From 18 to 72 wk age, birds in both treatments had full access to the litter area. Excluding birds from the litter area for 2wk resulted in better feather cover and reduced fearfulness, according to novel object and tonic immobility tests. 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 proportion of floor-laid eggs. In conclusion, 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, some of the data suggested that bird welfare had improved.

Keywords

pullets; welfare; performance; fencing; litter area

Published in

Poultry Science
2015, Volume: 94, number: 4, pages: 565-573 Publisher: OXFORD UNIV PRESS