Effect of rearing factors on the prevalence of floor eggs, cloacal cannibalism and feather pecking in commercial flocks of loose housed laying hens
1. Effects of rearing conditions on behavioural problems were investigated in a cohort study of commercial flocks of laying hens housed in 2 different loose housing systems. The sample population was 120 385 laying hens from 59 flocks of various hybrids at 21 different farms. 2. Logistic regression modelling was used to test the effects of selected factors on floor eggs, cloacal cannibalism and feather pecking. In addition to early access to perches or litter, models included hybrid, stocking density , group size, housing system, age at delivery , identical housing system at the rearing farm and at the production farm and, in models for floor eggs and cloacal cannibalism, nest area per hen. Odds ratios were calculated from the results of the models to allow risk assessment. 3. No significant correlations were found between the prevalence of floor eggs, cloacal cannibalism and feather pecking. 4. Access to perches from not later than the 4th week of age decreased the prevalence of floor eggs during the period from start-of-lay until 35 weeks of age, odds ratio 0.30 (P <0.001). Furthermore, early access to perches decreased the prevalence of cloacal cannibalism during the production period, odds ratio 0.46 (P =0.03). 5. No other factor had a significant effect in these models. Although it was not significant, early access to litter had a non-significant tendency to reduce the prevalence of feather pecking.