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Animals 2016, 6(1), 1; doi:10.3390/ani6010001

Opinion of Belgian Egg Farmers on Hen Welfare and Its Relationship with Housing Type

1
Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO), Animal Sciences Unit, Farm Animal Welfare and Behaviour Research Group, 9090 Melle, Belgium
2
Ghent University, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium
3
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Koningin Maria Hendrikaplein 70 bus 101, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Christine Nicol and T. Bas Rodenburg
Received: 27 November 2015 / Revised: 16 December 2015 / Accepted: 16 December 2015 / Published: 22 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Poultry Welfare)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [679 KB, uploaded 22 December 2015]   |  

Abstract

As of 2012, the EU has banned the use of conventional cages (CC) for laying hens, causing a shift in housing systems. This study’s aim was to gain insight into farmers’ opinions on hen health and welfare in their current housing systems. A survey was sent to 218 Belgian egg farmers, of which 127 (58.3%) responded, with 84 still active as egg farmer. Hen welfare tended to be less important in choosing the housing system for farmers with cage than with non-cage systems. Respondents currently using cage systems were more satisfied with hen health than respondents with non-cage systems. Reported mortality increased with farm size and was higher in furnished cages than in floor housing. Feather pecking, cannibalism, smothering and mortality were perceived to be higher in current housing systems than in CC, but only by respondents who shifted to non-cage systems from previously having had CC. Health- and production-related parameters were scored to be more important for hen welfare as compared to behavior-related parameters. Those without CC in the past rated factors relating to natural behavior to be more important for welfare than those with CC. This difference in opinion based on farmer backgrounds should be taken into account in future research. View Full-Text
Keywords: egg producer; welfare; survey; laying hen; housing; conventional cage; furnished cage; colony cage; aviary; floor housing egg producer; welfare; survey; laying hen; housing; conventional cage; furnished cage; colony cage; aviary; floor housing
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Stadig, L.M.; Ampe, B.A.; Van Gansbeke, S.; Van den Bogaert, T.; D’Haenens, E.; Heerkens, J.L.; Tuyttens, F.A. Opinion of Belgian Egg Farmers on Hen Welfare and Its Relationship with Housing Type. Animals 2016, 6, 1.

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