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Animals 2018, 8(7), 114; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8070114

A Description of Laying Hen Husbandry and Management Practices in Canada

1
Department of Animal Biosciences, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
2
Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 29 May 2018 / Revised: 9 July 2018 / Accepted: 10 July 2018 / Published: 11 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Farm Animals)
Full-Text   |   PDF [396 KB, uploaded 11 July 2018]   |  

Simple Summary

Furnished cage and non-cage (single-tier or multi-tier) housing systems are increasingly used worldwide in efforts to improve laying hen welfare. Canadian laying hen farms are undergoing a similar transition, however, little is known about the housing and management of laying hens in these housing systems in Canada. Data collected through farmer questionnaires from 65 laying hen flocks across Canada revealed commonly used management practices in furnished cage (26), single-tier (17) and multi-tier systems (22). Non-cage systems should allow hens to perform natural behavior (e.g., foraging/dustbathing). However, a proportion of non-cage systems either did not provide litter or considered manure as a litter substrate, which could have implications for consumer perspectives on these systems. Daily flock inspections and vaccination schemes were the main practices used to maintain flock health, whereas veterinarian involvement on-farm and in the development and implementation of a flock health plan was less common. Further research is needed to make clear recommendations and to investigate how to facilitate management changes by farmers currently transitioning to furnished cage and non-cage housing systems.

Abstract

Canadian laying hen farms are transitioning from conventional cage housing to furnished cage and non-cage housing systems to improve laying hen welfare. However, little is known about the current housing and management systems in Canada. This study addresses this knowledge gap by describing different housing and management practices used on farms where laying hens were housed in furnished cages or non-cage housing systems. A questionnaire covering farm and housing conditions, litter management, nutrition and feeding, environmental control, flock characteristics, rearing and placement, health, egg production and performance were distributed through provincial egg boards to 122 producers across Canada. Data were collected from 65 laying hen flocks (52.5% response rate) in 26 furnished cage, 17 single-tier and 22 multi-tier systems. Flocks were on average 45.1 ± 14.59 weeks old (range: 19–69 weeks). Frequencies of different management practices were calculated according to housing system. Most flocks were reared in the same housing system as they were housed in during lay, with the exception of furnished cage layers which were reared in conventional cage systems. Results indicated that a large proportion of non-cage systems were either fully slatted or had manure as a litter substrate, which could have implications for consumer perspectives on these systems. Further research is needed to develop clear recommendations on proper litter management for farmers. In general, flock health was managed through daily inspections and vaccination schemes, whereas veterinarian involvement on-farm was less common. Vaccination, hygiene, and effective biosecurity should be maintained to ensure good health in laying hens in furnished cage and non-cage systems during the transition to these systems. View Full-Text
Keywords: aviary; furnished cage; floor system; management; housing; poultry aviary; furnished cage; floor system; management; housing; poultry
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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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van Staaveren, N.; Decina, C.; Baes, C.F.; Widowski, T.M.; Berke, O.; Harlander-Matauschek, A. A Description of Laying Hen Husbandry and Management Practices in Canada. Animals 2018, 8, 114.

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