Production, physiological, and behavioral data were collected simultaneously on commercial hens housed for 10 months of lay in housing alternatives of cages, deep litter floor pens, and outside range pens. Treatments consisted of housing 1, 2, or 3 hens in small cages 3, 4, 5, or 6 hens in large cages, floor pens housing 51 hens each at three densities, and range pens with 50 hens at .74 m2 (8 ft2) per hen. Egg production rates were greater for all caged hen treatments than for any floor or range groups. Egg numbers favored 2 hens per cage, but economic benefits favored 5 hens per cage. Viability was highest for 1 hen per cage and range pen groups. Feed efficiency was poorer in floor and range groups; however, body weight was generally greater for caged hens. Plasma corticosterone levels did not differ among any cage or range groups, but floor pen hens had significantly elevated levels. Behavioral data for walking and object pecking showed clear differences between cage and floor management alternatives. Preening, standing, and drinking activities were different between some treatments but not clearly different between management alternatives. Feeding activity did not differ among any groups. Although correlations between stress and well-being have not been well elucidated, the sum of the stressors of cage confinement appeared to be less than those from floor pens. Therefore, it was concluded that the well-being of hens in cages was equal to or better than that for free ranging hens or those in floor pens.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology