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Behavior, performance and physical condition of laying hens in conventional and small furnished cages

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The aim of the present study was to compare the welfare level and performance of laying hens between conventional and small furnished cages. At the age of 54 weeks, 120 White Leghorn layers were divided into four groups: four (C4) or six hens/cage in conventional cages and four or six (F6) hens/cage in furnished cages. Their behavior, number of steps taken, performance and physical condition were measured. Sham dust-bathing was greater in conventional cages than in furnished cages (P = 0.05) and dust-bathing, litter scratching and litter pecking were also observed in furnished cages. Other comfort behavior, moving and number of steps taken were more frequent in the four-hen cages than in the six-hen cages (P < 0.01, P < 0.001, P < 0.001, respectively). Though egg production and egg mass in C4 and F6 were lower than in the other groups, no significant differences were found in the other production measurements. Bodyweight gain was larger in the four-hen cages than the six-hen cages (P < 0.01). In conclusion, behavior was not restricted in the furnished cages, but activity and bodyweight gain were affected by group size (density) rather than cage design. Hereafter, the studies on suitable density in each cage design, using young layers, are required.
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Keywords: behavior; furnished cage; laying hen; performance; welfare

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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