Responses of commercial laying hens to 16 management systems were examined for 10 laying periods of 28 days each. Twelve cage treatments consisted of housing three, four, or five hens in deep and shallow cages of different dimensions which provided .035 and .046 m2/hen. Four floor treatments housed 35 hens or 32 hens and three roosters at densities of .094 or .373 m2/bird, in two replicated pens each. Quantitative data were collected simultaneously for 23 production, physiological, and behavioral characteristics throughout the study. When comparing all caged with floor pen hens, caged hens had better (P less than .05) egg production rates (76.3 vs. 73.9%), gained more weight, had better feed efficiency, and had greater egg and egg shell weights than floor hens. All floor pen hens had higher (P less than .01) viability (98.9 vs. 95.0%), higher (P less than .01) plasma corticosterone levels (595.0 vs. 445.4 pg/ml), a greater (P less than .01) response to adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) challenges, and lower (P less than .01) antibody titers to Salmonella pullorum challenges than all caged hens. Caged hens preened, stood, crouched, and feather pecked more than floor hens, while floor hens drank and moved about more than caged hens. This study attempted to quantify production, physiological, and behavioral traits, all on the same flock of hens, in order to separate stressful from nonstressful management environments. Integration of all measurements indicates that properly managed caged hens were subjected to significantly fewer stressors than laying hens housed in floor pens, although the hens' well-being in the two environments could not be quantitatively compared.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology